PJ Harvey: To Bring You My Love (Demos) review – gripping outtakes from 1995

Although initial copies of her 1992 debut Dry came with a bonus disc of demos, and early versions of the songs for the follow-up, Rid of Me, were released as an album in their own right (1993’s 4-Track Demos), the same treatment wasn’t applied to Polly Harvey’s subsequent LPs. But her ongoing back-catalogue reissue project is finally setting that right, with To Bring You My Love‘s previously unheard demos released as a free-standing set alongside their mother album.

Related: PJ Harvey: where to start in her back catalogue

Her third album, released in 1995, was not only the point at which she jettisoned her rhythm section and effectively went solo; it also marked her first major stylistic shift, as she tapped deep into religious imagery and delta blues. The song structures of the demos here don’t differ radically from those on the finished album, but shorn of the string section and piano that embellished the final versions there is a more intimate feel. Not everything benefits: although Long Snake Moan loses none of its power despite essentially being just Harvey’s voice and guitar, C’mon Billy, on the other hand, sounds a little underwhelming here. What these more rudimentary takes do best, though, is foreground Harvey’s extraordinary lyrics. From the chilling tale of infanticide of Down By the Water to the obsessive longing of Send His Love to Me, this remains perhaps her most gripping set of songs-as-stories, and so worthy of exploring in subtly different form.