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PJ Harvey “Peel Sessions 1991-2004” Review

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PJ Harvey Peel Sessions

It will take Rid of Me another half decade before it settles in with a new audience, the children of those who it was first adopted by. Harvey’s music was timely and appropriate considering her surroundings and the ears it originally fell upon, but it will prove itself instead timeless. A period where there was such a distinct changing of the musical guard was ushered in at a time when Harvey first bloomed, and though her music stood outside grunge’s confines she compelled music fans to believe that there was something far deeper beneath rock’s plaid surface. And yet, with the album’s 1993 release, at a time when many fans first discovered her, they were still years behind John Peel.

Harvey’s first appearance for the BBC came on Peel’s show during the fall of 1991, in which she played four songs, “Oh My Lover,” “Victory,” “Sheela-Na-Gig” and “Water;” all of which are present on Harvey’s, if you will, Best of the Peel Show album. It was in this performance in which the strongly favored “Sheela…” begins to explains Harvey’s musical and lyrical direction to new ears, a direction which she would follow through her nine total appearances on Peel’s show. The song’s grit without grunge basis is followed by 1993’s performance of “Naked Cousin,” and 1996’s “Losing Ground” in specific; two songs which apparently had no place on proper albums yet defined her sound so genuinely.

The album’s liner notes are scarce at best, with a brief statement written by Harvey commemorating her relationship with Peel, yet it proves to prove her humanity and love, traits which are absurdly scattered despite her outspokenness. “John’s opinion mattered to me. More than I would ever care to admit. For fear of embarrassment on both sides, but I sought his approval always. It mattered.” With her emotion so clear, she continues, “Every Peel session I did, I did, FOR HIM.”

For those who have ever lost a friend, let alone one who honestly made sense to you, it hurts. But to lose a friend whose opinion truly mattered to you is something akin to losing a part of your self opinion, a segment of your self-esteem, a branch of who you are. But Harvey’s loss was different, it was all those things felt through the loving heart of a student, one that never scoffed criticism but internalized every moment of it. And with each performance she shared with him their mutual admiration grew, proving her final words in her letter to him so completely honest, “I chose these songs, in his memory. A way of saying Thank You. Once more, Thank You John.”

It is this emotion; this pageantry of what so many lack, and even more never knew existed that makes Harvey’s music powerful. It characterizes relationships universal with the release of her time shared with her friend she capitalizes not on finances but on sharing their love for each other and for music. And never for one second did John Peel suggest that he thought otherwise.