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Wednesday, 9 February 2011

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

It took two and a half years to write this according to Miss Harvey and after a day of listening I'm still feeling underwhelmed. Not turned off, but certainly underwhelmed.
In fact I'm sure she could have found better things to do with her time.
The build up to the release gave the impression that this would be a political exploration of England. An artistic magnifying glass cast over a society living through dark times.
Back then I thought it was a promising hint of what was to come.
Unfortunately the length of time working on it appears to have served to do little more than edge her towards bypassing the woods and focussing on the trees.
It's all over the place. Beyond being simply eclectic.
There's everything, and the kitchen sink here. Post punk indie folk. Call it what you will. Whatever it is it isn't working.
It's main problem seems to be that it is expected to be treated as a concept, a whole piece that should be appreciated in its entirety, and while individually certain tracks are fine, hang them all together and it's a mismatched patchwork quilt of self indulgent twaddle.
If Patti Smith and Enya got together and shouted at each other while playing their albums in the background then that's what some of this would sound like. Other tracks aren't even as good as that.
It's not all bad, but the balance is severely off and there is more negative points coming to the fore than positive ones.
The hardcore fans will disagree, and as per usual slavish praise from the critics will be heaped upon it, but take it from me. It aint that good.
PS. The ironic rip off of surfin' bird doesn't work either.


  1. Not as bad as all that, but no great album to be sure.
    I guess all the pretentious build-up doesnt do it any favours.

    I liked PJ better when she sang a tad more rough & bitter myself.
    I'ts a bit too girly & hippy-go-lucky (sic) for me.
    Plus the songs seem to lack that extra gear, the twist, the second layer, the unexpected that you want after a minute or two. Seems all a bit self indulgent and easy.

  2. I've still been listening to it Roger.
    I've not given up on it yet, but I agree with you in that I also prefer her to be a bit rougher with a bitter twist.
    I honestly think she could have given us a better album if she had did it in two and a half months rather that two and a half years.
    The navel gazing has sucked something from it. She's lost here way on this.

  3. Well for a two and a half year project it certainly sounds poor.Gonna play a song on my show nonetheless (in the dark places, i like that one, allthough I think it lacks a bit venom like the rest)
    Btw I thought navelgazing was now called shoegazing.:-)

  4. Lost her way?? It's a fantastic L.P. from the first note to the last imho...honestly I think it's a staggering album.
    I s'pose were all different,and that's what makes tha world go round blah-dy blah.
    Been enjoying your blog v.much,btw...long may it continue ;)

  5. Navelgazing is an introspevtive step too far Roger. Shoegazing can sometimes be acceptable, but never ever navelgazing.
    Not to be mixed up with naval gazing, otherwise known as waiting for your ship to come in.

  6. Thank you pinkpressthreat.
    As I said to Roger I haven't given up on it. It took me over a decade for Jeff Buckley to click with me, but when I consider this next to what she has dne previously I just think that she crossed the self indulgency line and maybe lost her way a bit.
    It doesn't feel like the critique of modern UK society that it was touted as and comes across as more fractured.
    Some of the songs on it certainly stand up individually, but I'm still waiting for it to work as a whole album.
    If you haven't heard Paul Wellers last album you should give it a try. Drop any preconceived ideas and wallow in how he has woven the music into a whole.