The first track off Harvey’s brilliant debut LP from 1992 “Dry,” “Oh My Lover” is the least sexy and most depressing “open” relationship song ever recorded. There’s nothing “liberating” here. It’s the anguished cry of a person who’s so desperate to hang on to the person they’re with, they’re willing to do something that breaks their heart to have some remnant of connection with that person.
I don’t think Harvey is passing judgment here and I don’t think she’s advocating the position of the protagonist of this song. It’s just the painful portrait of someone whose only sense of self is tied up inextricably with someone who is all but willing to exploit the protagonist’s weakness. Devastating stuff.
THE stand-out track on an album full of stand-out tracks, “Sheela-Na-Gig” is from Harvey’s ferocious 1992 classic “Dry.” The song (as well as the rest of “Dry”) s a complete stunner from beginning to end.
By the way, a “Sheela Na Gig” is an actual thing. Per Wikipedia, “Sheela na gigs (Síle na gcíoch in Irish) are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are architectural grotesques found on churches, castles, and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Great Britain, sometimes together with male figures … Ireland has the greatest number of known sheela na gig carvings … Such carvings are said to ward off death and evil.”
Allrighty then! Talk about “girl power.”
An unusual, but wonderful cover of the Peggy Lee classic from 1969 that Harvey recorded for the soundtrack of Julian Schanbel’s wonderful biopic on Jean-Michel Basquiat from 1996 (“Basquiat”).
Aside from Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, PJ Harvey was arguably the most influential “alternative” artist of the 1990s. While not as commercially successful as Alanis Morissette or Courtney Love, Harvey kept it frighteningly real for most of her career and unlike a certain critically acclaimed alternative sister who will go unnamed, never compromised to get a commercial “hit” she would regret later. Harvey’s music still has the power to unnerve even to this day.