PJ Harvey - To Bring You My Love (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

PJ Harvey

To Bring You My Love (1995)


In 1995 PJ Harvey released her first proper solo album after breaking the PJ Harvey Trio up the year prior. While women had gained a much stronger foothold in the music scene by the nineties, there were still two main camps at this point. On one hand, you had the aggressiveness of Riot Grrl and on the other hand, you had the singer-songwriter based musicians that would dominate the Lilith Fair in years to come. Somewhere between these two, you had PJ Harvey. She was, and remains, capable of unleashing fire and brimstone through walls of distortion but also writing quieter material for life’s more contemplative moments.

On To Bring You My Love she married her diverse song writing abilities with with a diverse group of influences, creating what many consider to be the best album of her career at that point. This was expected, given the more developed songs when compared to her previous efforts without taming the roots she had come from.

One of her major influences, throughout her career, has been Captain Beefheart. Nowhere was this influence more obvious than on the track “I Think I’m A Mother” which took musical and lyrical cues from “Dropout Boogie.” Numerous other nods to the music of Captain Beefheart took place throughout the album, which was unique to the nineties. While outsider music was certainly a prevalent influence on the alternative rock of the 1990’s, most of those influences came from the punk or punk influenced side of things. The influence of Captain Beefheart and his brand of bizzaro blues worked wonders for PJ Harvey though as it allowed her to stand out from peers while still not walking a straight line through the more contemporary mainstream rock of the era.

Aside from the Captain Beefheart influence, one of the other elements that set To Bring You My Love apart from many of her peers releases that year, was the album was almost completely lacking in bass guitar. It was instead replaced with an organ played which PJ Harvey played extensively throughout the album. The one track where bass guitar was present, it was provided by Mick Harvey, of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, on the track “Long Snake Moan” which gave the song adds even more edge to the song than is found throughout the rest of the album.

One of the best tracks on the album, “Down by the Water,” which opened with one of the best examples of organ being used in place of a bass guitar on this album. It also showed that the change gave many of the bass lines on this album a far more organic feel than you typically get from a bass guitar. The song itself detailed a woman drowning her child in the river and ends with one of the most haunting lyrical codas I’ve ever heard as PJ Harvey whispered, “Little fish, big fish swimming in the water. Come back here, and give me my daughter.”

While not a punk album in any sense of the word, the album was lucky enough to exist in an era where the rules about sticking to one genre had seemingly gone away, while Captain Beefheart is an influence openly claimed in the production of this album it is difficult not to listen to it and think of Patti Smith who while part of the early CBGB punk scene was certainly a far cry from the Ramones and would have been home sharing a stage with Television or Sonic Youth, which is saying a lot for someone who had their biggest hit penned by the decidedly unpunk Bruce Springsteen. And much like Patti Smith, PJ Harvey never gained more than a rabid cult following in the United States. However her influence can be heard in numerous modern punk bands from Screaming Females to newcomers like Mourn. While certainly not her best album, I would have to place Is This Desire? or Let England Shake, it may well be her most influential.