PJ Harvey - Let England Shake (Cover Artwork)

PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey: Let England ShakeLet England Shake (2011)
Vagrant Records

Reviewer Rating: 5
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Contributed by: JeloneJelone
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PJ Harvey has been on a hot streak since she returned in 2007 with White Chalk. Let England Shake, her third album in four years, is arguably the best of her new work, taking experimental approaches to conventional styles. Clearly, she is the Christopher Nolan of rock ??n' roll. Overall, the record is anti-war lyrically, ethereal in a folk/shoegaze fashion musically, and haunting all around. Over shimmering autoharp and hazy production, England buries deep and stays there.

England draws a lot of imagery from World War I, but in a way that could be applied to any war scenario. In war, nations glorify their soil, but as "The Glorious Land" points out, such prizes are soon ruined: "What is the glorious fruit of our land? / Its fruit is deformed children." "On Battleship Hill" talks about how land can, in turn, ruin wars. The song is almost a battle from WWI involving Australian and New Zealand armies that got bloody and bungled thanks to rough terrain. As an American, I'd compare it to Vietnam.

Still, WWI works because it is remembered as such a demoralizing war, "The war to end all wars." It ruined the winning nations economically; set Germany on the path to Hitler, genocide and World War II; and took so many years and lives to resolve that it temporarily killed any desire for fighting. That said, the album's standout track, "The Words That Maketh Murder" hits hard with lines that should apply to anyone. The lyric that's been quoted most frequently from England in articles, and with good reason, comes from this song: "I've seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat." That line is so visceral, so unavoidably direct and frightening. That the song is driven by a propulsive folk/bluegrass backbeat is almost unnerving.

"Murder" ends glibly with the quote "What if I take my problems to the United Nations" from Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues". It's one of several instances where Harvey quotes, references and samples other works. Each one is more out of artistic need than plagiarism, although I'm not entirely sure what significance the Police's "The Bed's Too Big Without You" should hold.

Those looking for a return to Harvey's heavy guitar days will again be disappointed. But then, it's been a long time since 1993's Rid of Me, and her work here is just as intense as "Rid of Me" or "Rub ??til It Bleeds." On White Chalk, Harvey opted to write for piano so as to see if it would alter her songwriting process. She applied the same trick to England, composing songs on autoharp and saxophone simply because she had never done that before. It's such a small shift, yet it resulted in a huge, rewarding departure. Hell, she even wrote a reggae tune ("Written on the Forehead"), and it's amazing. In a year that's already seen plenty of stellar releases, Let England Shake is tops.


People who liked this also liked:
Jesu - AscensionSunny Day Real Estate - How It Feels To Be Something OnThe Get Up Kids - There Are RulesSmoke or Fire - The SpeakeasyEnvy - RecitationThe Lawrence Arms - Buttsweat and Tears [7 inch]Metallica - Ride the LightningMatt Pryor - May DayAlcest - Les Voyages De L'AmeTeenage Bottlerocket - Another Way [Deluxe Edition]

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
nitromegalamb (April 11, 2011)

I'm with Mattromone

joeg (February 24, 2011)

wasn't really feeling this record on first listen but after a few more, this will easily be one of my favorite records of the year and of hers. i loved white chalk as well followed by her collaboration with john parish which was really underrated in my opinion. she put on one of my favorite shows of all time 2 years ago. really stoked to be seeing her in april in nyc!!

Cheesetits (February 22, 2011)

Wait she's on Vagrant Records?

colin (February 22, 2011)

this album fucking rules.

Chadreligion (February 22, 2011)

Why is PJ Harvey awesome???? Because she has one of those great voices that carries and echos for days, and like Siouxsie and The Banshees, has terrific and innovative songwriting capability.
White Chalk was a good step away from the norm and was easy to get into, but I'm looking forward to her getting back to a much bigger sound. Looking forward to hearing this.

eatdogs (February 22, 2011)

pj harvey is awesome. glad to see this reviewed here. "rid of me" and "to bring you my love" were such amazing albums...

jacktheskipper (February 22, 2011)

Same here ...

mattramone (February 22, 2011)

I never ever got the appeal as to why anyone liked her.

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