Recently, Ezra Furman said in a podcast that her ideal bar would have PJ Harvey ‘s To Bring You My Love on the jukebox. That sounds like perfection to me.
Harvey’s third album, released in February 1995, was a startling departure from her previous brittle albums, Dry and Rid Of Me . A more febrile atmosphere, dense with bluesy imagery, she came on like Ophelia had she been raised in Memphis. Captain Beefheart, Bessie Smith and Tom Waits are musical touchstones here, but the gothic theatricality of Nick Cave can be found too, plus the uncompromising operatic style of Diamanda Galas on the title track. It’s a bold gambit to take your music even further out of the mainstream, but Harvey did, and it paid off. Her followers went with her to the darkest places.
Only Harvey could release a first single about child murder (Down By The Water) then follow it up with a slightly insipid, hiccuping ballad (C’mon Billy) which wasn’t her best work, but she rewarded the listener with the fiery, violin -led Send His Love To Me, and the swampy, sexually suggestive Long Snake Moan.
As with the greatest artists (Bjork, Bowie, Cave, Waits etc) the trick is to wrong – foot people, to go off-piste when they think they’ve got you figured out. Harvey proved that she would never be second-guessed again. This album was her game changer.