PJ Harvey’s five finest collaborations

Posted On
Posted By admin

When PJ Harvey emerged on the scene, she quickly carved out a space for herself that felt distinctly original and singular. With her debut album, Dry, she asserted herself as a multi-disciplined musician, capable of writing vivid lyrics while captivating with an astounding voice. Able to play several instruments, too, it seemed like there was nothing that Harvey wasn’t capable of.

Her career has seen her span genres as she’s kept her music ever-changing, allowing her to metamorphosize over the years. She’s experimented with raw punk-inspired instrumentation and nodded to classic folk and blues while also drawing on rock and roll and alternative rock. Meanwhile, Harvey’s lyrics have often concerned womanhood, frequently weaving violence and eroticism together. War, inequality, love and nature have also made their way into her songs, which are always full of striking imagery.

Harvey initially started out as a trio, working with Steve Vaughan and Rob Ellis to create Dry and Rid Of Me as the PJ Harvey Trio. She then went solo for her subsequent albums, although she has collaborated with many artists ever since, sharing ideas and experimenting with other like-minded creatives such as Egyptian musician Ramy Essam and the late Mark Lanegan.

However, out of the many collaborations she has been a part of, some stand out as greater than others, like ‘This Mess We’re In’ with Thom Yorke or ‘Henry Lee’ with Nick Cave. Discover the five best PJ Harvey collaborations below.

PJ Harvey’s five best collaborations:

‘Henry Lee’ – Nick Cave

Harvey was in a relationship with Nick Cave for a few months, which all started when they recorded ‘Henry Lee’ for the latter’s album with the Bad Seeds, Murder Ballads. The duet saw Harvey and Cave take on the traditional track, with Harvey singing seductive lines like “And stay all night with me/ You won’t find a girl in this damn world/ That will compare with me.”

It’s one of Harvey’s most well-known collaborations for good reason – she gives an impressive performance, her voice perfectly complimenting Cave’s deeper, darker tone. With moody, evocative pianos and a slack beat, the song occupies a melancholic yet romantic space.

[embedded content]

‘This Mess We’re In’ – Thom Yorke

In 2000, Harvey collaborated with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on two songs on her album Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea – ‘One Line’, ‘Beautiful Feeling’ and ‘This Mess We’re In’. On the latter, she lets the singer take over the lead vocals, with Yorke painting a picture of New York, with helicopters flying above, creating a setting of chaos to match the exploration of a couple facing the end of their relationship.

Harvey provides backing accompaniments, sounding almost detached at times, as though she is processing a great change. In other moments, her voice is a lot richer and slightly melancholic. While Yorke sings of wanting to make love, Harvey delivers a spoken contrasting verse (“I don’t think we will meet again”), with Yorke repeating these lines in his recognisable lilt, inciting a contradictory atmosphere to echo the “mess” that the lyrics explore.

[embedded content]

‘Black Hearted Love’ – John Parish

John Parish has been one of Harvey’s most frequent collaborators since she started her career. She joined his band, Automatic Dlamini, in 1988 before making her own music, which he has often produced. In 1996, they released their first album together, Dance Hall at Louse Point, but one of her best collaborations with him came in 2009 with ‘Black Hearted Love’ from A Woman a Man Walked By

The song is guitar-focused, with screeching riffs opening up the track before Harvey’s voice, silky smooth, delivers some erotic lyrics. “When you call out my name in rapture/ I volunteer my soul for murder/ I wish this moment here forever,” she sings, blending sexuality with brutality to emphasise themes of power exchanges and feelings of pure intensity. “I will come again/ In the rain, mouth to mouth again, in the rain,” she adds, crafting a vivid and seductive set of images.

[embedded content]

‘No Child of Mine’ – Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull began her career in the 1960s, but she produced some of her greatest songs in her later years, such as on the 2004 album Before the Poison. Harvey wrote three of the tracks on the record and co-wrote two others with Faithfull, with ‘No Child of Mine’ standing out as the greatest. While Faithfull sings most of the track, Harvey can be heard providing backing vocals, with Portishead’s Adrien Utley also providing bass and synthesiser. 

It’s a slow and pensive number, with Faithfull spreading her wisdom over pianos and prominent guitars, courtesy of Harvey. “You are my child, and how you’ve grown/ But there are things, that you must learn/ That every man must stand alone/ And family you must disown,” Faithfull sings, Harvey’s words evidently suiting her style well.

[embedded content]

‘Broken Homes’ – Tricky, Martina Topley-Bird

Perhaps the most dramatic-sounding song on this list is ‘Broken Homes’, a song by Tricky, the trip-hop genius who began his career in Massive Attack. On the track, taken from his third solo album, Angels With Dirty Faces, Harvey, Martina Topley-Bird and Tricky all provide vocals. It’s a dark cut, full of electronic layers and violent lyrics, in keeping with Harvey’s penchant for graphic metaphors. 

She sings, “Because success needs killing/ Murder is media/ Forced laugh, forged autograph/ First my body, now my corpse.” There’s a sense of mystery and intrigue, with the song keeping a mellow pace that is at once subdued and full of drama. It’s an underrated track which proves that Harvey is able to excel no matter the music she’s accompanied by, whether that be harsh guitars or synthetic beats.

[embedded content]

Related Topics

Related Post