Quick Review (LP): Let England Shake by PJ Harvey


PJ Harvey
Let England Shake
Vagrant/Island Def Jam; 2011

My Rating: B+ (79/100)

Best Tracks: "Let England Shake", "Written on the Forehead", "The Words That Maketh Murder", "All & Everyone", "On Battleship Hill"

Great pop music to me is about craftsmanship. Polly Jean’s latest bears the distinctive mark of meticulous craftsmanship. From the opening xylophone melody and anemically strummed guitars of "Let England Shake" to the third world blues of "Written on the Forehead", this record oozes thoughtfulness and attention to detail.

But is it great? It’s so dark that it’s a bit hard to find joy, and that, in my mind, is again a fundamental point of great pop music. Craftsmanship is where greatness begins, but it needs to inspire in the listener a sense of joy and of possibility, of rising above the darkness. Unfortunately, Let England Shake falls a little short by diving in the darkness and never coming up for light. Nevertheless, it’s extremely well executed.

NOTES:
– Her vocal style on this record is pretty interesting. She sounds of like a frightened little girl in a warzone.
– This is some serious OT-rock. Dig?
– Anemic and bleak throughout. Post-apocalyptic wasteland love songs.
– "What if I take my problem to the United Nations?" And gotta love the Davy Crockett chorus. “The Words That Maketh Murder” is a very cool track.
– This is a dark, dark soul record.
– "Written on the Forehead" is radio worthy
– All in all, this is a rewarding meditative work, one that beckons you draw a little nearer and pay close attention. It’s not amazing, but it is high quality, and will probably be one of the better records released in 2011.

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Consequence (3.5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

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