PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
Label: Vagrant Records
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Released: Mar 2011
Genre: Pop, Rock
Style: Alternative Rock, Indie Rock
Let England Shake 3:09
The Last Living Rose 2:21
The Glorious Land 3:34
The Words That Maketh Murder 3:45
All And Everyone 5:39
On Battleship Hill 4:07
In The Dark Places 2:59
Bitter Branches 2:29
Hanging In The Wire 2:42
Written On The Forehead 3:39
The Colour Of The Earth 2:33
During the first decade of her career (1991-2000) Harvey was one of the most deservedly acclaimed artists in all of music. In fact much of her work during that period is among the most varied and challenging (and best) popular music ever released: Whether the potent blues-punk of "Dry" and "Rid of Me", the industrial/gospel/blues-mythology of "To Bring You My Love" (arguable her best work), or the refined, emphatically heartfelt "Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea" (2000), she seemed incapable of a misstep. Her work became both less prolific and less inspired. Apart from a collaboration with band-mate John Parrish, the next decade only saw two releases: "Uh-huh Her" was an uninspired hodgepodge of her previous approaches, while "White Chalk" consisted of decent, but somewhat pedestrian piano-based ballads. "Let England Shake" is her most inspired, consistent album in a decade.
Thematically "Let England Shake" is poignant and mournful like much or her earlier work, but the songwriting is more fully realized, and the music is richer and fuller than an White Chalk. While she doesn't really take any major departures, she finds ways to embellish her sound. Perhaps most interestingly, she sometimes directly uses other artists as a partial substrate: "Written on the Forehead," samples Niney the Observers' "Blood and Fire", while "The Glorious Land" includes a traditional bugled battle hymn of the U.S. Cavalry. On a few other tracks she subtly infuses elements like horns, brass, and maybe even a xylophone (I think). The result is a lush, warm album that deftly combines both modern and traditional musical elements: Perhaps the perfect stage for Harvey's mournful ruminations on the national and personal destruction wrought by war.
Though her emotional and thematic complexity always defies easy description and understanding, "Let England Shake" can be generally interpreted as both a love letter to and a eulogy for her home country of England and the carnage wrought by military conflict. Throughout the record, there are vivid, painful images of death in various forms and stages. Despite her agonizing lyricism, Harvey almost always manages to keep "Let England Shake" resolutely dignified and compelling; rather than wholly succumbing to the carnage and darkness, she uses the grief as a source of inspiration (and vocally, she's still in top form).
While they are very different albums, much as she did with "To Bring You My Love", Harvey has pulled off a rare accomplishment on "Let England Shake": She marries grand, inspired music with poignant, mournful themes in a way that makes both elements more compelling than they would be separately. While she's not as emphatic, bold, and immediate as she was in her peak, with this album she reasserts herself as one of the most sophisticated, poetic, articulate, and uniquely undefinable musical artists. To me, this is her first album that's both unapologetically mature and genuinely inspired.
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake' Interview
In this interview for Spinner PJ Harvey describes the intensive process of anchoring down the words in advance of recording.
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake'
What a cracking song, does remind of Siouxsie and the banshees a bit. The video is very well put together, the compostion is outstanding..
PJ Harvey - The Glorious Land
PJ Harvey - Written On the Forehead