PJ Harvey “Let England Shake” (2011)

July 25, 2011

Death was in the ancient fortress / Shelled by a million bullets (…) As we advanced into the sun / Death was all and everyone. These lyrics best sum up Let England Shake, the splendid album by the fantastic and soon-to-be-legendary PJ Harvey. Death not as an individual’s matter but rather of a whole nation is the main theme of the Dorset rocker latest offering. Peej continues what she started with White Chalk but this time her observations are not insular; she is more like a war correspondent now. References to the Gallipoli Campaign, Iraq and Afghanistan are obvious but the overtone of the record is universal: this is about war and its aftermath in general. Images are as vivid as they are creepy, like on The Words That Maketh Murder: I’ve seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat / Blown and shot out beyond belief / Arms and legs were in the trees. Or The Glorious Land: What is the glorious fruit of our land? / Its fruit is orphaned children / What is the glorious fruit of our land? / Its fruit is deformed children. But Harvey does not treat us with these shocking images just to haunt us. It is a warning that comes from her deep longing for her beloved country in the days of despair. The song titled simply England has a following passage: I live and die through England (…) To you, England, I cling / Undaunted, never failing love for you / England. The album is addressed to PJ’s nation, to the countless dead people whose lives were taken in their youth. Musically Let England Shake is mostly folk and autoharp, saxophone and, of course, guitar being the dominat instruments (all played by Peej). What is new is the unexpected usage of samples on Written on the Forehead and England. Harvey’s vocals are more ethereal, just like the last living rose quiver[s].

hydrameter: 4/5

Key Tracks: All and Everyone, England, In the Dark Places, The Glorious Land, The Last Living Rose

Watch The Last Living Rose: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh41ANc_tMc

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