Let England Shake
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Let England Shake [Explicit]
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|Audio CD, February 15, 2011||
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2011 album from the critically adored British singer/songwriter. Let England Shake was recorded in a 19th Century church in Dorset, on a cliff-top overlooking the sea. It was created with a cast of musicians including such long-standing allies as Flood, John Parish, and Mick Harvey. What is remarkable about Let England Shake is bound up with its music, its abiding atmosphere and in particular, its words. If Harvey's past work might seem to draw of direct emotional experience, this album is rather different. Its songs centre on both her home country, and events further afield in which it has embroiled itself. The lyrics return, time and again, to the matter of war, the fate of the people who must do the fighting, and events separated by whole ages, from Afghanistan to Gallipoli. The album they make up is not a work of protest, nor of strait-laced social or political comment. It brims with the mystery and magnetism in which she excels. But her lyric-writing in particular has arrived at a new, breathtaking place, in which the human aspects of history are pushed to the foreground. Put simply, not many people make records like this.
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Lest one think that the album is utterly bleak, many of these dark songs are quite catchy and toe-tapping. Some are more compelling than others, but the combined effect, the album as a whole, is greater than any individual part. The tone is relatively light and restrained given the subject matter. Harvey sings in her upper register. To me it sounds like it could be a recent Mekons album, particularly Journey to the End of the Night from 2000 (see my review). Given that the Mekons are among my favorite artists, I mean that as the highest praise.
Though Harvey clearly situates LET ENGLAND SHAKE in the context of British history and culture, and it will certainly speak to a British listener in a way that others might not totally understand, the theme is obviously universal, and unfortunately timeless as well. One song ("Written On the Forehead") could easily be about the contemporary invasion and occupation of Iraq, though it could be about the Ottoman lands of 1915.
Others have analyzed the album's place in the trajectory of PJ Harvey's music. I want to stress that in its own right this is a powerful piece of art that should be heard whether you are a fan of her previous music or not. Definitely one of the best of the year early on.
In general, rockers like U2 & GNR hit their peak around early 90s when alt rock was blowing up--acts like Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, STP.
so back to my question, who you gonna say better than my girl PJ?