The Desperate Kingdom of Love
"The Desperate Kingdom of Love" is a song by PJ Harvey, originally released on the album, Uh Huh Her on May 31, 2004. It was covered by Dave Gahan and Soulsavers and is the tenth track on Imposter.
(from original recording)
And how the wind knocked you down
Put on your spurs, swagger around
In the desperate kingdom of love
Holy water cannot help you now
Your mysterious eyes will not help you
Selling your reason will not bring you through
The desperate kingdom of love
There's another who looks from behind your eyes
I learn from you how to hide
From the desperate kingdom of love
At the end of this burning world
You'll stand proud, face upheld
And I'll follow you, into Heaven or Hell
And I'll become, as a girl
In the desperate kingdom of love
"This is like an old Johnny Cash song. I tend to believe everything PJ Harvey says — she sings with such honesty. I'm drawn to her music, even when it's pretty hard to listen to. You can hear the damage in her voice, which is probably what makes her so special, right?"1
"This is another love song, but it's from a woman's perspective which I think brings a certain energy to it that I can just feel. I think the openness and honesty in it is incredibly powerful."2
"[The 'desperate kingdom of love' is] this amazing place to be, but it's also this place where you feel entirely — and I do at times — suffocated and mostly from my own doing and my own choices and my own inability to really express how I feel — to take that in, and what you get back, or what has been given to you and not being able to handle it. I'm just more these days aware of that's just the way I am, and those around me, including my wife, who has to put up with that. It's like Lanegan says in 'Strange Religion,' 'I'm no easy ride.'"3
This is a very naked song in so many ways...musically, it's about as bare as you can get with just an acoustic guitar strumming the same tones, more or less, and PJ Harvey sings it with an extremely soft and quiet voice, like she's trying not to wake a sleeping child up or something. With such a stripped-down sonic approach, it is really the lyrics that shine. The very poetic description of a "sickly child" urged not only to live but to thrive in this "desperate kingdom of love" has a sense of agony and daring hope. What is this desperate kingdom of love that she speaks of? And does this "kingdom" perhaps share any similarities to the one that Dave sang about in his Hourglass hit, for example?
Speaking of, Dave has been a longtime admirer of PJ's works and he has wanted to collaborate with her as long ago as when he had recorded Paper Monsters.4 Too bad such a collaboration never happened, as I think their voices would mesh really well together. There is still time, though, of course! Anyway, I have a feeling that Dave and Soulsavers are going to turn this naked-sounding song into a big production as they are wont to do. And that's okay; I think they will give new meaning to the desperation that this "kingdom" is described to have. My one question is, though, how will Dave approach the "as a girl" lyric in the second-to-last line? Will he simply change it up?
Just as I somehow predicted, Dave/Soulsavers' version turns this song on its head and totally reimagines it, giving it their signature big-production, gospel-y sound. This sounds nothing like the original. First of all, Dave does not sing this in a hushed manner at all; his voice rings loud and triumphant, as if the line, "You'll stand proud, face upheld," is already fulfilled. Also as expected, he does flip the gender in the second-to-last line. Even though he is pretty much obligated to do that, it still serves to finalize his stamp on it. And with a full rock/blues band sound and backup singers, the quiet solitude exuded by the original is completely done away with. There is no comparison that can be done here between the 2 versions; I think both of them can and need to be appreciated fully on their own.
There is no music video for this song.