Sunday, February 27, 2011

PJ Harvey-To Bring You My Love

Originally Written and Posted at on 4/20/09.

Following the success of 1993's Rid of Me and the accompanying 4-Track Demos compilation, PJ Harvey was becoming the new queen of alternative rock. Yet, after a tour to promote Rid of Me in mid-1993, Harvey disbanded her longtime backing band consisting of bassist Steve Vaughn and drummer Rob Ellis. Hoping to reinvent herself from her stripped-down, guitar-bass-drums sound of earlier albums, Harvey wanted to expand her musical palette as she turned to former band mate John Parish for help in creating new songs for her third studio album. Harvey also enlisted the help of famed producer Mark "Flood" Ellis, who had been known for his work with U2, Depeche Mode, and Nine Inch Nails. Delving into newer music territory which included more string arrangements, atmospheric production, and other techniques while retaining Harvey's love for the blues. The album would be considered her greatest work to date entitled To Bring You My Love.

Produced by PJ Harvey, John Parish, and Flood with songs written by Harvey, To Bring You My Love is an album filled with an array of different musical styles ranging from blues, straight-ahead rock, cabaret, and electronic music. With lyrics delving into darker territory with themes of heartbreak, death, and other worldly themes including religion. It is Harvey's most sprawling yet versatile record to date as she takes on different instruments with an array of musicians including John Parish and from the Bad Seeds, Mick Harvey (no relation). The result isn't just PJ Harvey's best album but also one of the best albums of the 1990s.

The album opens with its title track, a blues number with melodic, droning, twangy riffs with PJ Harvey's vocals going into a growling, bluesy presentation. With lyrics dealing with religious themes as it's a song that is true to the idea of the blues. Notably with an accompaniment of Mick Harvey's smooth, wailing organ and clanging percussions from Harvey herself as she sings like a possessed blueswoman. Meet Ze Monsta is a mid-tempo, foot-stomping number with monstrous, electro-beats and growling, droning guitars with Harvey's growling, somber vocals. With lyrics filled with sexual overtones and horror references, it's a song that has a nice, chugging rhythm with the atmospheric, buzz-droning production style of Flood. Working For The Man is a smooth, upbeat track with bopping beats and low, thumping bass lines. With Harvey's smooth, quiet vocals with percussion shakes in the background, she sings in a sensual vocal style with lyrics filled with dark metaphors as she's accompanied by Mick Harvey's ringing guitar flourish.

The album's second single C'Mon Billy is an acoustic ballad with washy acoustic riffs and tambourine striking rhythms as Harvey goes into her wailing vocal style with heartbreaking lyrics. With a somber string arrangement accompanying Harvey, Harvey's vocals delve into the heartbreaking tone of the song as it's one of the album's highlights. Teclo is a blues number with smooth, washy riffs that growling riffs accompanying the song with Harvey's piano as she sings in a somber vocal style. With her lyrics of desperation and enlightenment, it's a rich cut with melodic guitar flourishes, tingling percussions, and Harvey's cabaret vocal style. Long Snake Moan is a loud yet abrasive song with growling, driving guitars and hard-hitting mid-tempo beats with Harvey's growling vocals taking charge. With thumping bass lines playing along to Harvey's dark, eerie lyrics, it's a song that is filled with amazing production from Flood as it reveals that Harvey is still engaging as she was in her previous albums.

The album's first single is the electronic-driven Down By The Water with its droning bass lines and smooth, pulsating drum machine beats. With Harvey's sensual, smooth vocals with dark, blues-laden lyrics, it's Harvey's most famous song with its eerie, electronic presentation of tapping percussions, screeching arrangements, and Flood's eerie production. Especially as Harvey delves into dark lyrics with whispering vocals with bleeping synthesizers showcasing her range in vocals. I Think I'm A Mother is a bluesy song with washy, melodic riffs and hollow, rumbling beats as Harvey sings in a low, growling vocal style. With its dark lyrics about motherhood, it's a song that encompasses the range and presentation Harvey presents as a vocalist and songwriter.

Send His Love To Me is an acoustic ballad with rich, washy acoustic flourishes that's in a flamenco-style but with bass-thumping beats and Harvey's wailing vocals. Along with a soothing organ accompaniment, Harvey sings heartbreaking lyrics filled with desperation and sadness while a soothing string arrangement plays through the song. Even as Harvey maintains her bluesy persona as a woman possessed. The album closer The Dancer is a ballad with shimmering guitar flourishes, soothing organs, and bouncy drum beats as Harvey sings lyrics of death with her somber, growling vocals. With lyrics referencing God and death, it's a song that shows Harvey's vocal range as well as her songwriting techniques as it's a fitting closer that ends the album on a high note which includes a sliding guitar solo in the middle and an organ performance to close everything.

From a limited edition of the album is a bonus disc of 9 b-sides from the singles released from soundtracks and material from To Bring You My Love. Two of these songs were originally heard from the 1993 4-Track Demos compilation. First is Reeling that previously appeared in demo form from 4-Track Demos, that is similar to the original demo recording with swift, driving guitars that are bit louder than its demo. Even with its squealing organ-keyboard track as Harvey sings in a growling vocal style with lyrics of pain and such. Daddy is a ballad led by Mick Harvey's somber organ performance with PJ Harvey singing in a falsetto, cabaret-vocal style. With sad lyrics along with a dirge-like rhythm reminiscent of New Orleans-style jazz, it's a wonderful track that shows Harvey's musical range. Lying In The Sun opens with warbling, feedback-sliding guitars and drones that take charge for nearly a minute-and-a-half until smooth, driving riffs come along. With Harvey singing in a growling vocal style, the song is filled with lyrics relating to the blues as it's a dark song with a soft, thumping bass beat accompanying the song.

Somebody's Down Somebody's Name is a mid-tempo blues track with sliding guitars, bouncy beats, and melodic guitar swirls as Harvey sings in a calm, somber vocal style while being quiet in some parts. With lyrics delving into dark, eerie territory reminiscent of the blues, it's Harvey's wailing vocals that is the song's highlight. Darling Be There is a song led by a somber organ with Harvey singing in a cabaret, melancholic vocal style with sad, desperate lyrics of heartbreak. It's simple presentation along with its atmospheric production is key to what makes this song standout from the material in the bonus disc. Maniac is a song with vibrant, Latin-rhythms along with droning bass lines for a soothing yet wavy presentation. With Harvey's wailing vocals filled with desperate, bluesy lyrics about wanting a man, it's a song that is a weird yet insatiable track with whistles, screeching violins, and out-of-tune piano strikes.

One Time Too Many is a track with growling, scratchy, driving guitar riffs that becomes this bouncy, upbeat track with Harvey's growling, angry vocals with direct lyrics about being hurt and men. With an accompanying organ background and a funky instrumental break, it's Harvey's moaning vocals and guitar spurts that take charge. Harder is a charging, rocking song with crashing cymbals and beats with growling guitars with Harvey singing in a hollow vocal style with striking pianos. With its dark, bluesy lyrics, it's a song that embroils itself in its charging presentation and Harvey's wailing vocals. The last track on the bonus disc is Goodnight from 4-Track Demos which is similar to its original demo with sliding guitars and quiet, growling vocals. With Harvey's wailing vocals filled with dark lyrics, it's simple, crisp production is the highlight as Harvey accompanies herself on vocals with a foot-stomping rhythm and guitar slides.

Released in late February of 1995, the album drew rave reviews from critics as it would be voted the top album of that year from Rolling Stone, USA Today, New York Times, and The Village Voice along with landing on several top ten lists from several major critics. The album's surprise acclaim led by the huge modern rock hit Down By The Water raised PJ Harvey's profile while her live shows proved to be different from her previous live performances. Sporting weird makeup, leotards, a Wonderbra, and other lavish costumes, Harvey changed her persona from a guitar-wielding alt-rock queen to an androgynous figure. While the record was a huge commercial success in Britain while in the U.S., a moderate hit selling over 300,000 copies. Harvey found herself overwhelmed with its success as she retreated to work on a side project with friend John Parish.

To Bring You My Love is an atmospheric, heavy, and engaging masterpiece from PJ Harvey. While it may not have the sheer, abrasive attack of 1993's Rid of Me, To Bring You My Love is a much different record showcasing Harvey's versatility in her songwriting while expanding her sound. Thanks to the production work from John Parish and Flood, it's easily Harvey's most fully-realized to record as it covers all of the bases in the abrasiveness of earlier albums and the experimentation of later albums. In the end, To Bring You My Love isn't just one of the best albums of the 1990s and of all-time. It's PJ Harvey's crowning achievement in her illustrious career.

(C) thevoid99 2011

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