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85 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, England My Lionheart
Kate Bush and Nick Cave had a baby. They named the baby "Let England Shake." This is absolutely brilliant. Last night, I listened to it for the first time with the headphones on. It was so mindblowing, I actually had to take them off and stop for a while. So much subtlety and grace. This album is simply beautiful. This album is simply horrifying.

It seems to me...
Published on February 19, 2011 by David Chris Dalton

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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little bit of Björk, a sprinkle of U2 and a snuff of good old angry PJ
PJ Harvey's 'Let England Shake' has been recently released to overwhelming critical acclaim but to my mind it is not a great album. It's easy enough on the ear. Too easy in fact. There's some Björk, some U2 (from the Joshua Tree days) and just a snuf of good old angry PJ. The poppyness, however, jars with the solemn overall theme for this album: war. She sings about...
Published on March 20, 2011 by Philippe Vandenbroeck


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85 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, England My Lionheart, February 19, 2011
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David Chris Dalton (Raleigh, NC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Let England Shake (Audio CD)
Kate Bush and Nick Cave had a baby. They named the baby "Let England Shake." This is absolutely brilliant. Last night, I listened to it for the first time with the headphones on. It was so mindblowing, I actually had to take them off and stop for a while. So much subtlety and grace. This album is simply beautiful. This album is simply horrifying.

It seems to me that, beyond being an album about war and an album about England, it is an album that is about death. It is about death and how responsible we humans are for it much of the time. To know that you are mortal, that your time is finite, yet to still construct rationales and to still be beholden to animal lusts that cut that already unfathomably precious time even shorter...for what? Staggering.

I've seen a lot of conservative comments, lacking vision, that feel Ms. Harvey is not the Ms. Harvey of old, that she has lost the fire of the 1990's. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ironic that the ravages of time and the descent into bitterness that are reflected upon in this record are echoed in the negativity of some of the reviews. But I suppose that's to be expected as the war of life drags ever on.
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Musically Rich, Emotive, and Dignified. Her Best Album in a Decade., February 15, 2011
This review is from: Let England Shake (Audio CD)
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.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Classic From Peej, March 24, 2011
This review is from: Let England Shake (Audio CD)
English singer/songwriter PJ Harvey has released a number of great records since her classic debut, often changing her style and - aside from maybe Uh Huh Her - making sure that each record has its own identity. For her eighth proper studio record, the great Let England Shake, Harvey is changing things up more than ever, offering something of a new vocal style, a new focal instrument (the autoharp), some strange ornamentation (saxophones, you name it), and a very heavy and constant focus (war). All that said, this still somehow feels very much like a PJ Harvey record, offering all the bite and howl of her best work while giving the listener plenty to think about.

Long known not only for her howl, but also for her songwriting ability (see White Chalk or To Bring You My Love for proof), Harvey seems maybe more focused here than ever, admitting in the media that she spent quite a bit of time studying the history of conflict and war while writing her new record. And while its easy to listen to these 12 songs and think about things going on in the world today, most of the themes and concepts can be traced back through time, Harvey often referencing Anzac Cove, not Afghanistan. And while I do find the lyrics to be particularly interesting and even rewarding (Harvey supposedly spent over two years simply perfecting the lyrics with not instruments, but pen and paper), what I find most rewarding about this record are Harvey's arrangements and singing, which are as good here as ever.

It's not that I don't care about war or respect someone writing so elegantly about the evil of men (primarily in Europe, though I imagine it's hard for an American to hear the record and not feel like she's talking Bush and Obama), it's just that, well, I like music far more than I like war. War bums me out; music shoots straight to my mental state of well being in a way that nothing else can. The mixture of the two things, when you think about it, is strange; but, when done properly, it can work quite well. And while Harvey is often singing about sad history, you'd only know it if you paid close attention to her words with each spin - something I don't recommend. There's too much beauty in these often strange compositions to overlook. My theory is that, since Harvey, such a skilled album-maker at this point, took so long to pen these tunes, she very likely also had a whole lot of time to think about how she wanted to approach them in the studio. And so she came in with new voice, new sound and focused words, ready to record some of her most realized work ever.

Back when I was working in record stores I'd play Is This Desire? and, more than almost anything, Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea very, very often. Both albums had songs that appealed to me instantly, not unlike Let England Shake tracks such as "The Last Living Rose," "England" and "The Words That Maketh Murder." But, as I stuck with those two records, they revealed themselves to me in new ways, growing as I listened, eventually becoming front-to-back favorites. England is no different, once again proving Harvey as a true blue AOR-styled artist with some serious longevity.

Take an artist, any artist, with loads of great albums. Picture that catalog and all its high points. Now imagine me telling you that that very artist has yet to release their best record. Chances are, you wouldn't believe me. I wouldn't believe me. But here we have PJ Harvey who, after two decades of releasing great - even classic, in some cases - records, has released what could very likely go down as her signature record. It's the music. It's the singing. It's the writing. It's the strange ornamentation. Everything comes together here to form a solid, memorable work that ups the ante for anyone trying to make a serious album made to move and inspire. That the backdrops are also so unique and cool is one hell of a bonus.

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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pj's bleak , brilliant view of england, war and beyond..., February 18, 2011
This review is from: Let England Shake (Audio CD)
When it comes to modern rock singer/songwriters, there is PJ Harvey and everyone else. This generation does not have a Dylan, Young or Mitchell walking through the door anytime soon (sorry Bright Eyes and S. Stevens.) Let England Shake is another masterpiece and her fans are going to have to follow her lead or get left behind.

Like Bowie, Harvey is constantly changing. Here's a quick run down: Punk goddess on "Dry" n' "Rid of Me." Magical temptress on "To Bring you My Love" n'"... Desire." She threw her fans a bone and gave them exactly what they wanted on the excellent yet relatively safe "Stories..." She quickly snatched the bone away with "Uh Huh Her" n' "White Chalk." "Let England Shake" is not an easy listen. With time, it may prove to be her best.

War? What is it good for? (Sorry, couldn't resist.) It's good for a spine tingling journey through the past, present and future of England. PJ mentions the hills, trees, landscapes within the context of battles that have shaped both her and the rest of the world. The price paid was and remains high. The lyrics on this album are some of the best of her career. She no longer pines for a lover or howls at the sea. She sings of life during wartime and the horrific reality of death.

While the hard charging Harvey of old may have been a perfect match for the bleak subject matter, the alt queen opts for a less obvious solution: sing sweetly and let the darkness in slowly but surely.

There are no obvious singles or sing a-longs here. The instruments float in and out like London fog. A sax steps in for a strummed guitar. A pretty harp or piano juxtaposes a harrowing tale. On The Last Living Rose, a torn Harvey sings the praises of a country where glistening gold sells for nothing. The line from All And Everyone, "advancing in the sun... sing Death to all and everyone" ranks as one of popular music's most chilling moments because of the sad and beautiful way Polly Jean delivers it.

Let England Shake will not be a soundtrack to anyone's spring or summer. It's much more: it's a soundtrack for humanity in the 20th and 21st centuries. Thanks Polly Jean for leading singer/songwriters and music fans to unknown destinations. I will follow...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I hope she never stops making music. Ever., May 12, 2011
This review is from: Let England Shake (Audio CD)
PJ Harvey already has one album on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of All Time list (Rid of Me) and I don't think it would be a stretch to say that this one could handily bump another off of that list and take it's rightful place there. Good god, can this woman make music or what?

To be brief, if you're already a fan you'll absolutely love this album. Love. If you're not familiar with her work, before purchasing this, pleaseohpleaseohplease find some of her music videos or performances on YouTube and listen to at least 3-5 songs from as many albums as no two are alike. Her music is such that you will either love it or loathe it. Period. I happen to love it.

I'll readily admit that this 5 star review is a bit biased and of no surprise as I've been a rabid fan of her since I was 11 years old and even named my first car "The Polly Jean Machine". As I've grown and evolved, so has she and her music. PJ Harvey is the soundtrack to my life. Sooo glad she afforded me the opportunity to add this album to that soundtrack. And thanks to my husband for the best 1st Mother's Day gift a PJ fan could hope for!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Album of 2011 (So Far), March 29, 2011
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This review is from: Let England Shake (MP3 Music)
PJ Harvey's eighth studio album, Let England Shake, is a work of art. She recorded the album in a 19th century church in Dorset, located on the South West coast of England. Joining her in the studio were longtime friends and collaborators Mick Harvey (no relation) and John Parish and producer Flood.

In numerous interviews Polly Jean Harvey states that her goal with each album is for it to be different than the previous, and in that she is far more successful than her peers. The goth-electro foreboding of 1998's Is This Desire? gave way to 2000's pure rock Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, an album for which she won the Mercury Prize. 2007's White Chalk was also critically lauded and for this album Harvey ditched her Gretsch Broadkaster for the piano. While the instruments and the overall sound of each album differs from one to the next you could say that each of these albums dealt with the inner world and subjects ranged from subjects like unrequited love to death to sex; the personal politics and torments and joys that make us human. On Let England Shake, Harvey places the personal politics aside and focuses on the outside world. Images of war and its impact on the land are a common subject matter here with allusion to both Afghanistan and World War I, however, the music shifts the overall tone of the song so that the album does not feel heavy handed. To put it bluntly, Harvey does not preach to her listeners, which is unique for such a political album.

Final Impressions : If you are as much a fan of PJ Harvey as I am then this album will not disappoint. If you are a lover of music...this album is worth the cost. It is already receiving critical praise.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars God Save the Queen, June 6, 2011
This review is from: Let England Shake (MP3 Music)
God save the Queen.. yes..

This is a great great great album. Beautiful, historic, epic, emotional..PJ Harvey deserves a big "thank you" by making music so meaningful. Definitely one of the best albums of 2011. Today, only and only PJ harvey could write an album like that.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breathtaking, daring, revolutionary artistic masterpiece, January 1, 2013
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This review is from: Let England Shake (Audio CD)
As there are already countless detailed reviews of this album - not to mention the excellent essay by John Harris above - I won't go into too much of a detailed analysis, but simply state that even having bought this album when it was released nearly a year ago, it stills shakes me to the core. I can think of no other concept album that succeeds on so many levels - lyrically, musically, vocally, etc. Harvey is at the top of her game here, becoming not only a musician and songwriter but something resembling the poet-historians of ages past.

The arrangements and production are perfect, as is nearly everything about this album (including the accompanying film available on Youtube and now on DVD). This is one of those rare albums that must truly be "listened to" (i.e. not as background music or on earbuds whilst riding the subway, flipping through a magazine or reading a book). I feel as though I've raved enough (at least much more than I intended to), but this is the kind of piece of art that I can see being studied in an academic environment - it's that intense, relevant, and ground-breaking.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, February 20, 2013
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This review is from: Let England Shake (Audio CD)
A definitive testament of PJ Harvey as one of the biggest treasures in the music industry and the Arts in general.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PJ Harvey's masterpiece!!!, February 19, 2011
By 
NUEVE "nueve" (Culiacan. Sin. Mex,) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Let England Shake (Audio CD)
"Brilliant!" is the only word that I can use to describe PJ Harvey's latest album. It seems to me that she has found a way to sound "friendly" without losing her credibility as an artist and her finest touch. Every song here was made so carefully that it's obvious that she knew exactly what she wanted for every track. This is not a loud album we might be used to from Ms. Harvey but for sure it sounds like a new road for her to explore. By moments it remids me to the slowest tunes of Pearl Jam and by others to something The Beatles could've come up with. There's no point for me to mention the appealing of the songs here because this is not a record to play for just a song or two. You must listen to it at all and then going from there to pick your favorites. Personally, I love ALL 12 of them. Honestly.

I have always been a fan of the work PJ Harvey has done for almost two decades already but I have found most of her records hard to understand and to get just because they are so self absorb by moments but that is the reason why I love her as much as I love Radiohead after I listened to "Ok computer" (1997) and the even weirdest "KID A" (2000). She makes me think, she dares me to sit down and spend an hour or so to get what she's trying to say or to play. She dares me to get into her music world hoping that I find a way out with nothing but admiration and the most real and beautiful feelings. That's the kind of singers I love. This might not be a big seller album but for sure is going to be one of THE MOST respected ones this year by the music community, her friends and even her fans. Long live to Ms. PJ Harvey.
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Let England Shake
Let England Shake by PJ Harvey (Audio CD - 2011)
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