PJ Harvey has returned to the music scene with Let England Shake, her first release since her collaboration with John Parish A Woman A Man Walked By in 2008. This album has already landed her a secure spot in the mainstream, and having gained the Outstanding Contribution To Music award at the NME Awards, her career is finally gaining the recognition it deserves.
Opener Let England Shake is a catchy song that sets the overall quick tempo of the album, which is surprising considering the concept of questioning a country’s morals would weigh down a lot of the tracks, especially one like England.
Lead single The Words That Maketh Murder contains a strong rhythm section with drums that sound like they have come from a political rally, which suits PJ’s lyrics of war and death. But what makes this song even better is the vocal hook at the end with the collective chant of “What if I take my problems to the United Nations” that drives a much needed force into the record and creates such an impact on the latter half of Let England Shake.
The lyrics are the highlight of the album, as despite the album’s praise to England, they refer to death, the destruction of the country’s pride and historical presence, with a particular line that stood out to me “England’s dancing days are over”. This is an album that instead questions the current state of a country’s patriotism.
The production of the album is good, and has a slight rough edge to it. As if every track was recorded live and in one take, which adds a lot of atmosphere to them and could be a device used to relate with England’s somewhat rollercoaster choices in recent times.
Throughout the album, PJ uses a higher register which detracts it from her discography. The higher register combined with the deeper, male voices create a great combination of vocals which displays a lot more emotion and impact to the songs than one sole vocal would.
Let England Shake is a fantastic album that succeeds in providing the listener with an array of emotions that either support England, or question it. This is where I find that albums that attempted this concept such as Frank Turner’s England Keep My Bones pales in comparison to this record, though that’s not entirely a bad thing.