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In this regular feature we celebrate that all important opening track on a debut album, because for some it may have been the first song they ever heard from that artist.

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In this issue will John Hartley be left happy and bleeding in that dress after considering….

Artist: PJ Harvey
Album: Dry
Year: 1992
Track: Oh My Lover

PJ Harvey was introduced to me by the NME. Not in person, obviously; that would be a tale for a different section of the website. I began reading the NME in my teenage rebellion years. For some, that rebellion might have been taking up smoking, daubing graffiti on walls and hanging round the precinct. For me it was not tucking in my school shirt or only applying to polytechnics instead of universities. Rebellion also included liking alternative music that nobody else could possibly like and the NME was a champion of such music. So when the NME championed an act like PJ Harvey I was duty bound to rebel against the NME and categorically dismiss it without even the merest listen.

I didn’t escape PJ completely; she appeared on two tracks by fellow Dorset-originees The Family Cat. Her vocals enhanced the single ‘Colour Me Grey’, although her contribution to ‘River of Diamonds’ was less complimentary, so I wasn’t persuaded to investigate further. Of course, in the early stages at least PJ Harvey was more than just Polly Jean Harvey; it was a proper band just named after their singer. ‘Dry’ was to become the springboard for much greater things, garnering much critical acclaim along the way and in 2013 Polly was awarded the MBE for services to music.

‘Oh My Lover’ is the track that kicks off the album that was Polly’s first and, as like many artists in similar positions, what she thought might be her only. In the event, this Too Pure-released album was to provoke a major label bidding war and a year later a second album would be released on Island records. A strong voice and chime of guitar bring this debut album to an immediate awakening before a bass-heavy riff leads the song onwards. Slow, brooding and angry in equal measure, in hindsight it is easy to see what all the fuss was about. ‘Oh My Lover’ is a definite statement of intent and well worth a listen for anyone else like me who had never previously given PJ Harvey the time of day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free, at brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com

What first track on whose first album will John Hartley review next time?

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