We started an interesting discussion in the Lana thread, that is probably best continued here.

The first two albums, when "PJ Harvey" was actually a three-piece band, had an enormous unexpected success - and impact on the music industry. All of the music and lyrics were written by PJ herself (of course), allowing her to launch a solo-career. Many, many artists cite her as an influence. PJ Harvey paved the way for many other women. However, she got a lot of backlash when saying the following;
"I don't ever think [about feminism]. I mean, it doesn't cross my mind. I certainly don't think in terms of gender when I'm writing songs, and I never had any problems [as a result of being female] that I couldn't get over."

Anyway, aside from the impact, I never heard someone refer to the first to records as political - basically because I never interpreted the contents as such before. I thought it was just the impact. As Perky noted, some stuff can be feminist even if the intent isn't there (therefore alone I wouldn't call it political, but that is just taste). In this thread I hope we can explore and analyse the lyical content for a bit, and how and why they can be interpreted as being feministic.

Quote Originally Posted by Perky Compson View Post
A work can be feminist and about feminism even if the creator doesn't identify as feminist or identify the work as feminist, if it's explicitly about leveling relationships between the sexes and exploring the fragilities of gender roles - which tracks like "Dress", "Sheela-na-gig", "Snake", "Man-Size", "50ft Queenie" etc are. But yeah, would love to discuss this with you in the PJ forum!
Most of the stuff Harvey writes about - we don't even know what it is about; a lot of it is original interpretation of the listener. The only thing we can go on is the few things she ever said about the songs - as well as direct links and similarities of texts she uses as an inspiration. Harvey exhibits that troubadour-like quality of storytelling and perspective taking; excluding Uh Huh Her, the stuff she writes about isn't autobiographical. She often takes a certain perspective and it often isn't clear whether what perspective is a man or a woman. Like "Rid of Me", that song sounds psychotic because she wrote it at a time when she was "almost psychotic", but it is completely gender neutral. Somewhat further; "When I’m writing songs I never write

with gender in mind. I write about people’s relationships to each other. I’m fascinated with things that might be considered repulsive or embarrassing. I like feeling unsettled, unsure."

Haven't revisited the songs since you named these, but I definitely will soon. I write up my current thoughts / interpretations of the songs you named;

Dress
This is a song where gender relations feature heavily. A woman dresses to impress - but seems to fail. The man in the song is a patronizing asshole.

Sheela-na-gig
Tied both to the image of the ancient goddess, and probably as well the book "Carrie" by Stephen King, in which the word "dirtypillows" means breasts (it is likely one of PJ 's favorite books, as I think "Taut" even cites from it directly); I hardly ever listen to the song, but I assumed she took the perspective of a certain people in that particular book.

Man-size
A song about insecurity with an unknown perspective.

50 FT Queenie
About the movie Attack of the 50 foot woman. Never gave it any further thought.


Would love to hear how you interpret the songs.