Album Review: PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Let England Shake by PJ Harvey

“Let England Shake” is a powerful and intelligent album about Harvey’s homeland. A lot of the record features wispy almost “shoegazeish” guitar strumming at its core, with layers of drums, horns, Harvey’s mournful voice and impressive lyricism then draped over it. It’s a moving album, but not an easy one to get into. It’s one that demands (and for the most part merrits) your full attention. Throughout “Let England Shake” Harvey seems to walk that very real line between national pride and disgust with war and past actions.

God damn Europeans, Take me back to beautiful England

“The Last Living Rose” is probably my favorite track. Harvey’s voice is particularly soulful in this sort of anti-anthem that tone wise, reminds me of the opening number in “Sweeney Todd”. You can really feel her love for the history and  grimey, lived-in apects of her island nation. This lumbering prideful (almost defensive) track even features what is probably going to be the barratone sax solo of the year.

The Words that Maketh Murder” is another dreamy guitar driven number that this time focuses on the brutality of war. While it’s certainly not a new topic for folk music, the song has plenty of energy and the refrain (which surely has to be in reference to the Iraq War) of “What if I take my problems to the United Nations” is a clever and sharp jab to say the least.

In the downright angry “Bitter Branches” Harvey just seems to lash out at the idea of giving your life for a country. The songs heavy, confrontational drumming and Harvey’s shrill voice blasting over everything gives the song a chaotic feel. The lyrics touch on a reoccurring theme throughout the album, the fact that people seem to be almost litterally connected to their land by natural forces. It’s a hectic but effective song, and album for that matter.

The Last Living Rose

Listen to Bitter Branches

Let England Shake – 3.5 out of 5

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