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PJ Harvey - Let England Shake


Ben
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A couple of months back I saw her play her new stuff, read a few poems, and show off the photography she'd done with a war photographer in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington DC. It was an enjoyable night, the photography in particular, but I'm afraid I can't remember much about the music to tell you about it.

PJ + Jaguar = YES PLEASE

Sounds very much like Let England Shake pt2.

Unlike most artists that have gone stale/no longer relevant/going through the numbers, I always tend to follow her blindly, end up liking it for a bit, but then still really pine for the old days of aggression and personal dilemmas. "Let England Shake" was not an album about PJ Harvey, more an album about stuff she had researched, watched or read about. This new work seems the same.

I still want to see her do stuff like this, raw, slightly aggressive, personal.

(Not to mention she looks bloody fantastic in it too!)

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Sounds like Let England Shake with elements of her old sound to me which I'm happy with as I've missed that great overdrive growl she always gets.

As much as I also love her old stuff I've been delighted that an exceptional artist is actually engaging with social/political issues and doing it so well. A small handful of (mostly hip-hop) artists aside music in general has felt pretty apathetic to me since the turn of the century while there's been so much shit going on.

I can understand why as it's very difficult to do it well in this day and age without sounding overly preachy and it's certainly easier to keep your head down but it makes me all the more appreciative of those making the effort.

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Yeah, I can see both sides of that. Maybe her own life has settled down to the point that doing a personal thing would sound forced? And the folk song influenced social commentary was really interesting for me on the last album, one of my favourites.

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Yeah, I can see both sides of that. Maybe her own life has settled down to the point that doing a personal thing would sound forced?

I think that comes with middle age and/or extreme wealth, or in Bono's case, both! The writing goes from being personal when growing up, to researching a topic of what you want to write about. Seems almost certain in PJ's case at the moment.

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Still though, when I think of Nick Cave railing against age with the songs like No Pussy Blues, you can still be a rockstar when you're relatively old if you do it right I reckon. There's sure to be others I'm not thinking of. How much of it's manufactured I could not say.

If that cover had better lettering it'd probably get away with it more. Wonder what it's about.

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Funnily enough I thought of that first Grinderman album in the opposite way, as total midlife crisis rock. I remember liking the second one a fair bit more though.

Yeah, just having the top lettering in the same style as the bottom, incorporating it into the crest and reducing the size of the whole thing a bit would make quite a big difference. But it still wouldn't be great.

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The stuff didn't sound "personal" in terms of her personal relationships, but she was actually travelling to Kosovo, and Afghansistan, and Washington and writing songs and poetry about her experiences. It maybe came across as being a bit of a surface view from a tourist, whereas the photographer she was travelling with had a deeper long standing relationship with the area.

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Still though, when I think of Nick Cave railing against age with the songs like No Pussy Blues, you can still be a rockstar when you're relatively old if you do it right I reckon. There's sure to be others I'm not thinking of. How much of it's manufactured I could not say.

If that cover had better lettering it'd probably get away with it more. Wonder what it's about.

On the contrary, I think "No Pussy Blues" is the dictionary definition of a mid-life crisis song! And a bloody good one as well. Maybe should start a mid-life crisis song thread!

Another that springs to mind is Soft Cell's "Frustration", but as Marc Almond was half the age of a middle age man, I am sure he was writing this as purely a character observation of where he didn't want to end up at the time!

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That's what I mean though, it's a mid-life crisis but still personal and grr and all that. Or not, and amusingly manufactured. Either way, it can work I think. This is indeed getting off topic! The new song is on Spotify and based on one listen I like it without being spellbound.

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The stuff didn't sound "personal" in terms of her personal relationships, but she was actually travelling to Kosovo, and Afghansistan, and Washington and writing songs and poetry about her experiences. It maybe came across as being a bit of a surface view from a tourist, whereas the photographer she was travelling with had a deeper long standing relationship with the area.

I thought that her songs were quite underwhelming during that tour. I just put that down to them being a work in progress still.

Nevertheless I have to give her credit for actually seeking real inspiration for her music instead of writing from the comfort of her home.

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  • 2 months later...

How's everyone finding this then? Despite my respect for what she's been doing I did occasionally find aspects of LES a little awkward, not really the themes but the very literal and direct style of the lyrics. Far be it from me to tell someone with her songwriting ability how to do things but there was a slight nagging feeling that maybe those wider themes could've been integrated into a deeper and more ambiguous lyrical style without losing their impact. The quality of the album as a whole made my nitpicking reasonably easy to ignore but with this I'm not so sure.. It's gone much further in that direction and I'm not sure the songs and arrangements are good enough to really make it work.

 

I think Let England Shake will be pretty timeless but I can see this one aging quite quickly. Still, I'll take a lesser PJ Harvey album over most stuff that's out there.

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