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PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

  by Maarten Schiethart

published: 19 / 2 / 2011

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
Label: Universal Music
Format: CD


Stunning return to form and part reggae-influenced remorseful eighth studio album from PJ Harvey, in which she examines the declining current state of England

PJ Harvey's new album comes in the aftermath of the untimely passing away of Captain Beefheart. As well as in her sense of remorse for England, she acknowledges the impact that the Captain also made on her. 'The Last Living Rose' is a suitable obituary and brought shivers to me. A clever dose of brass music rounds off the majestic spell of this track in just over two minutes. From her Dorset cabin, PJ Harvey has managed once again to make an album that causes a bit of an earthquake. After twenty years in the biz, you'd argue that PJ might have given up yet 'Let England Shake' is very much a return to form. Useless banks and cruel nature shape the undertones of this new album, upon which Harvey comes to grips with a grim reality. Interrupted by a Peter Sellers trumpet sampled over a Big Youth reggae tune in 'The Glorious Land', dear Polly Jean nonetheless traps you on the right foot. While not being particularly a political statement, it creeps under your skin and will evoke rebellion. Her tunes have not been this elaborate and catchy for years. The sense of reality which always was lingering on in her early songs, and has been locked away on her albums of the last decade, has returned with striking chords and memorable melody lines on 'Let England Shake'. Shake as in 'shake your hips'. Whilst delving deeply, PJ is at her wuthering heights again. Both pleasantly obsessed and disturbed, this set of groovy English tunes has on some of its tracks a reggae backbeat. PJ remains her sturdy own self yet aims at waist-level, which she hasn't done for years. She deserves a (radio) hit with 'The Words That Maketh Murder'. PJ turns ridiculously Björkish at the start of the core track 'England'. Only for a while though, as 'Let England Shake' is intricate and instrumental in its own ingenuity. And leaves a bitter taste; she sounds like an Irish lass as a sample of an 'oud' instrument fades out. At the time of writing, the LP had not been pressed but I'm pretty certain that on vinyl 'England' will kick off side 2. Equally mesmerizing tracks follow 'England' and the echochamber dub touch gets stronger. The last tracks show PJ Harvey at her best. There is a subtle use of piano keys on 'Hanging in the Wire', and then she returns to the grand 1970s reggae style of 'The Glorious Land' on 'Written on The Forehead'. There is not a single daft track here. Ask Santa or make the effort yourself.

Track Listing:-
1 Let England Shake
2 The Last Living Rose
3 The Glorious Land
4 The Words That Maketh Murder
5 All And Everyone
6 On Battleship Hill
7 England
8 In The Dark Places
9 Bitter Branches
10 Hanging In The Wire
11 Written On The Forehead
12 The Colour Of The Earth

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