PJ Harvey had already infiltrated the mainstream by 1995, thanks to two of her early singles (“Sheela Na Gig” and “50ft Queenie”) earning medium rotation on radio stations. Her clanging punk-rock trio were just accessible enough to appease fans of Pearl Jam, but just weird enough to etch out a niche of their own. Harvey’s first two albums, Dry and Rid of Me, rock in a fairly traditional way — Rid of Me even features a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” as American as music gets. Steve Albini suffused Rid of Me with heavy distortion, sometimes burying Harvey’s voice under layers of feedback, which lent the album an air of menace, but also occasionally usurped the singer-songwiter, the raw production drawing attention to itself. With To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey’s first true solo album — which she produced along with Flood and John Parish — the artist embraced a new aesthetic. Harvey bawls and shouts, she sighs like a spirit ascending from a corpse; she plays the organ, which palpitates like a broken heart. Guitars sound like synths and synths sound like guitars.
Harvey is beholden to no one here — she is free, unencumbered; she sings like she’s praying to the devil. To Bring You My Love is cryptically seductive, Harvey’s voice beckoning like a furled finger.
To Bring You My Love opens with a slow, sparse, six-note bass riff playing alongside Harvey’s raucous voice, as she yawps: “I was born in the desert / I been down for years / Jesus, come closer / I think my time is near.” Her apocalyptic lyrics hark back to Patti Smith, rock’s original ferocious femme, from whom Harvey drew obvious influence. But Harvey is beholden to no one here — she is free, unencumbered; she sings like she’s praying to the devil. To Bring You My Love is cryptically seductive, Harvey’s voice beckoning like a furled finger. It’s a variegated medley of mood and melodrama, of blues rock stomps and trip-hop tracks. There’s a curt simplicity to the music, to the lyrics, a macabre poetic tersity. Harvey is concerned with sex, with androgyny, with the fugacious nature of love (“My love will stay ’till the river bed run dry / And my love lasts long as the sunshine blue sky / I love him longer as each damn day goes / The man is gone and heaven only knows”), and with the idea of God as a palliative, as a wingman: “In the night I look for love / Get my strength from the man above / God of piston, God of steel / God is here behind the wheel.”
Part of Kicking the Canon – The Album Canon.