PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake is a weirdly-upbeat meditation on the Gallipoli Campaign, modern war, and imperialism shot through with references to the poetry of T. S. Eliot and the paintings of Francisco de Goya and Dali. The morbid lyrics jangle along with the aid of Polly Jean Harvey’s whimsical auto-harp, painting a cheerfully nasty picture of wars past and present. The musical style is a thing all its own, but the storytelling quality of Harvey’s carefully-crafted pieces recalls The Decemberists at their best. It’s a fun album, really, and well worth listening to multiple times to pick up all of Harvey’s references. It’s rare to see an author do this kind of homework, but Let England Shake is loaded with everything from lists of color choice in Goya’s most famous works to surrealistic accounts of battles fought during the invasion of the peninsula of Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire by a joint British and French military force. The detail never distracts from the music, either, no matter how busy Harvey’s symbolic systems get.
In short, Harvey’s newest album earns four and a half stars out of five. Nothing really breaks the bank like Piano here, but the album is better than solid from start to finish and there are really no complaints to be made. An excellent album from a great performer.
By: Micah Martin and Joshua Bruckner of “The Scrivening Hour”