Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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HARVEY, PJ

(b Polly Jean Harvey, 9 Oct. '70, Corscombe, Dorset) Rock singer and songwriter; plays violin and guitar. Her parents were sculptors and stonemasons; making things came naturally and there were always musicians around the house. She played saxophone in teenage bands but was already writing, formed trio PJ Harvey with Steve Vaughan on bass, Robert Ellis on drums. Singles 'Dress' and 'Sheela Na Gig' '91 on fashionable indie label Too Pure established the persona of a schizoid modern woman, proud in herself but seeking male approval; first album Dry '92 (on Indigo in USA) nailed down her powerful words and stripped-down music. She signed with Island; her second album Rid Of Me '93 was harshly prod. without dynamics by Steve Albini, who likes only loud and soft; it reached the top 200 albums in the USA. She had been a virgin until she was 21, then had a relationship that went bad within six months; the naked fury of Rid Of Me must have been cathartic, but she is not writing and singing about feminism but is a vessel for something outside herself, describing the world with passionate imagery. She released 4 Track Demos '93, revealing the working methods that resulted in songs like 'Rid Of Me' and 'Rub 'Til It Bleeds'; she also began playing with her image, from asexual skinny to trying on ball-gowns and mascara. Her third album To Bring You My Love '95 had lusher production, a new five-piece band, more coherence and confidence; it reached the top 40 USA, where she had toured supporting the quartet Live (who had a no. 1 album Throwing Copper '94). She might go back to art school and become a sculptor like her mother; whatever she does she will do it her way.