"You snake you crawled between my legs," PJ Harvey fumes on "Snake," spite mixing with her tears. The choppy guitar progression behind her vocal helps elevate the Rid of Me-era track to a terrifying level it's blues, it's religion, it's stripped-down hardcore punk, and it's live. Besides being a tribute to the late BBC DJ and his knack for capturing exciting performances, this collection of PJ Harvey's Peel sessions is a treasure for how well it reminds us of her early material, and how formidable she could be in person. Later albums like Uh Huh Her (2004) or Is This Desire? (1998) are still great. That's not disputed. But Rid of Me and Dry, Harvey's 1992 debut, were something more righteous and rocking, challenging, damaged and proud, they represented the riot grrrl ethos as it sounded coming out of an Englishwoman willingly haunted by a bluesman's soul. Peel Sessions includes stunning versions of "Water," "Victory" and "Sheela-Na-Gig," a yowling "Wang Dang Doodle" and a quieter but no less gripping take on "That Was My Veil," which originally appeared on Dance Hall at Louse Point, Harvey's 1996 collaboration with guitarist John Parish. It's a requirement for fans. But it can be an introduction too even if she hasn't been much for recording or performing lately, Peel Sessions 1991-2004 reminds us that Harvey can come back from the dead whenever she wants, (she's recording her new album now), and still totally destroy.
Johnny Loftus is the music editor of Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.