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fromheadtoheart flag England - Full Moon 226 - 02/04/15

From head to heart
PJ Harvey's To Bring You My Love

Following our retroscope series going on for several years, here we go again. Yes, for one more year! Here's Speakers' corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart, or simply tapping our shoulder. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth we are taking a 20-year-long leap back in time. To late February 1995. Back to this lady's third album, when Polly Jean was still only 25 years old. She's a MBE, you know. A Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and she has created most excellent music almost since her late teens. Music that is not dry, or gets rid of you (or vice versa). Then, she brought love, desire, ether, and stories fromthe city, the sea and everyhwere else. Finally she let her country shake. For now, it's about love and emotion. Eternally. Universally. Finally. Let DJ PJ loose to choose.

coverpic

PJ Harvey
To Bring You My Love
Island Records

To Bring You My Love was Polly Jean's third solo album and the second on a major label. It was also her major commercial breakthrough.

Her parents played Bob Dylan and Captain Beefheart when PJ grew up and she has surely been inspired, at least by the latter. Her rendition of the blues may not be as perverted as the old Captain's, but her raw punk-blues of "Meet Ze Monsta" and "Long Snake Moan" must surely have paved the way for the success of sister Meg and brother Jack of White Stripes a few years later. Well, it's not all distorted guitars and rough vocals here. On the very slow "Teclo" the distorted guitar (effectively low in the mix) is a accompanied by a harmonic piano and an undistorted guitar. There are organs on almost every track, though they hardly dominate apart from in the slightly country and western flavoured "The Dancer" at the very end of the album. Along with two other tracks, "The Dancer" also includes something as improbable as a string quartet! "Working For The Man" is close to a bare drum'n'bass number with vocals and some organ deep down in the mix. The powerful acoustic guitars and percussion almost sounding like handclaps of "Send His Love to Me" gives reverberations of flamenco. The album was produced by PJ herself, along with her faithful musical companion Joe Parish (also guitars, organ, drums and percussion) and for the first time the hip Flood (aka. Mark Ellis). The guests included Australian Mick Harvey for the very first time (no relation, from The Birthday Party, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Crime & The City Solution). This was the year before PJ and Nick Cave started their personal relationship.

Speaking of Nick, lyricwise she seems at least occasionally inspired by the same universe as him, a fascination for gloomy landscapes, culture/religion and characters of the southern areas of the United States or thereabouts, as in the title track:

I was born in the desert
I've been down for years
Jesus, come closer
I think my time is near
I've travelled over
Dry earth and floods
Hell and high water
To bring you my love

I've climbed over mountains
Travelled the seas
Cast out of heaven
Cast down on my knees

Not quite what you'd expect from your average non-religious lady from southern England. But she has more on offer. In "C'mon Billy" and "Down by the Water" she acts as the male protagonist; in the latter, dominated by a cool distorted bass, as a really bad boy...:

I lost my heart
Under the bridge
To that little girl
So much to me
And now I moan
And now I holler
She'll never know
Just what I found

That blue eyed girl
She said 'No more'
And that blue eyed girl
Became blue-eyed whore
Down by the water
I took her hand
My lovely daughter
I won't see her again

Oh help me Jesus
Get through the storm
I had to lose her
To do her harm
I heard her holler
I heard her moan
My lovely daughter
I took her home

Little fish, big fish, swimming in the water.
Come back here, man, gimme my daughter.

The fascinating video that accompanied the song depicts PJ in the characteristic red satin dress of the album cover both over and under water. Or the other way round, the cover photos is probably taken from the video.

Those who are only familiar with PJ's latest offerings of the present millennium might be in for a little shock. She has always been somewhat deliberately rough concerning her record production, but here she is substantially rougher than on say White Chalk (2007) and her latest, Let England Shake (2011). On the other hand, her second, Rid Of Me (1993) was even rougher. Anyway, To Bring You My Love, released 20 years ago today, is a fascinating album from one who doesn't seem to hold the skill of being artistically indifferent. The album firmly placed her among the proud tradition of strong personalities of rock, like Patti Smith.

Copyright © 2015 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our PJ Harvey articles/reviews: ØYAfestivalen, Oslo, Norway, 11.08.2016, Let England Shake.

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