Polly Jean Harvey arrives fully formed as a songwriter on PJ Harvey's debut album, Dry. Borrowing its primitive attack from post-punk guitar rock and its form from the blues, Dry is a forceful collection of brutally emotional songs, highlighted by Harvey's deft lyricism and startling voice, as well as her trio's muscular sound. Her voice makes each song sound like it was an exposed nerve, but her lyrics aren't quite that simple. Shaded with metaphors and the occasional biblical allusion, Dry is essentially an assault on feminine conventions and expectations, and while there are layers of dark humor, they aren't particularly evident, since Harvey's singing is shockingly raw. Her vocals are perfectly complemented by the trio's ferocious pounding, which makes even the slow ballads sound like exercises in controlled fury. And that's the key to Dry: the songs, which are often surprisingly catchy -- "Dress" and "Sheela-Na-Gig" both have strong hooks -- are as muscular and forceful as the band's delivery, making the album a vibrant and fully realized debut.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine