From the very beginning of her career—the "Dress" single for Brits, the Dry album (with its stark, sure-footed opener "Oh My Lover") in the US—PJ Harvey made it known she was a brilliant and complex musical force. Now it's 20 years later, and PJ Harvey is rightly ensconced in the cultural imagination as the preeminent rock artist of her generation. This Friday, this fact will be celebrated loudly and passionately at Chop Suey, where a number of Seattle bands and musicians will take the stage to apply themselves to the PJ Harvey songbook. On the roster: Star Anna, Glitterbang, Skates!, Blackie, Night Cadet, Corey J. Brewer, Kate Moore, and more. Here, four of the night's performers and the person who thought the whole thing up hold forth on the specifics of their PJ Harvey love.
Jodi Ecklund, Chop Suey Talent Buyer
I first heard PJ Harvey in the summer of 1992. I'd get music recommendations from the guy who owned this little record store in Port Orchard called Northwest Records. He told me to check out the Dry album, and I've been a huge fan ever since. I think she just has an undeniable sex appeal—she has a sexy kind of cool that puts her in a league of her own. I'm a huge fan of the dynamic shifts in her music, and I love the simplicity of her chord arrangements, and then the incredible time signatures she uses. I could go on and on about how her music captivates me. My only criteria for the tribute night was that everyone involved had to be a huge PJ Harvey fan.
Lesli Wood, The Redwood Plan/Skates!
I wasn't even 18 when my friend played me Dry. I had no idea what the hell was happening on that album, but I liked it. Now it's a classic, and tons of people have been influenced by it, but at the time, to my little baby ears, it was earth shattering. I then remember picking up Rid of Me, and the first time I heard that last chorus fully kick in, I think my brain exploded. What I love most about PJ Harvey is that she does not give a fuck. She will reinvent herself and her sound in any way she fucking pleases. It's so tough to pick just one favorite song of hers, because I love so many, but at the end of the day: "Victory." Hands down.
Corey J. Brewer
I'm pretty sure the first time I experienced PJ Harvey was seeing the video for "Man-Size" on 120 Minutes. It's brilliant—one take, black and white, just her sitting on a chair bouncing around to the music and lip-syncing only when the mood strikes her. My older brother was ahead of the curve and already had a tape of Dry. I borrowed it a lot. What I love is how her songs feel totally uncompromised, and her synthesis of love, fury, sex, angst, and humor seems effortless. My favorite PJ song is "Oh My Lover," which is totally devastating, a perfect song. But the line "I'll tell you my name: F-U-C-K" from "50ft Queenie" is so brilliant. (I'm not playing either of those by design—I'd rather see someone else do them so I can enjoy it.)
Seth Garrison, Night Cadet
I grew up in middle-of-nowhere Mississippi and was not the hippest preteen. I didn't hear PJ Harvey until I was a senior in high school, when PJ, Björk, and Tori Amos were a balm to my poor li'l angsty gay soul. But PJ—everything she touches is gold. She's a musical badass! She has such a raw sound, and I love her rhythmic sensibilities, and she packs an incredible emotional/visceral punch with a minimal amount of layering. Not to mention she's totally hot. I've always said if there's one lady I'd be straight for, it's her. Naming my favorite PJ song is tough. I'm a HUGE fan of Rid of Me—it's a perfect album in every way—but my favorite song ever might be "Sheela-Na-Gig" from Dry. (And "Man-Size Sextet" is a very close second.)
I heard PJ Harvey for the first time in the car on the way to school in Everett. "Down by the Water" was a big hit then. I think I was about 15. I wasn't really digging a lot of music around that era—not the stuff that was playing on the radio, at least. As soon as I heard her, I knew that I wanted to buy all of her albums. I loved To Bring You My Love, but took my sweet time getting around to the previous two. I was surprised how different they sounded from To Bring You My Love, but I quickly became an even bigger fan of Rid of Me. That's still one of my favorite albums.
My favorite thing about PJ Harvey is her presence. I had a guy friend years ago who said he loved PJ Harvey because she wrote songs like a guy. I think he kind of missed the point. Her style isn't male or female. It's not genderless—she seems very feminine to me—but she never employed a lot of the songwriting devices used to convey femininity the way most other singer/songwriter ladies were doing at that time. She just wrote a lot of really powerful songs with weird structures, and she wasn't trying to be pretty about it. She's changed her style a lot over the years, but I still think she has that raw power mixed with awkwardness and honesty. It's hard to pick my favorite PJ Harvey song, but I think I'd have to say "Meet Ze Monsta." That songs kicks lots and lots of ass.