Posts filed under ‘P.J. Harvey’
I’m probably one of the biggest PJ Harvey fans around. I believe she’s been one of the most creative musicians over the past two decades. Today, she streamed a new song, written for a cause. It’s called “Shaker Aamer”, named after the Guantánamo Bay detainee, who is the final British citizen being held there. He’s been in prison for 11 years without being charged or given a trial. Aamer was also cleared by both the Bush Jr. and Obama administrations — however he’s still at Guantánamo. It must mean something considerable to Polly to write this song in order to bring attention to his story and the organization (Reprieve) helping him. I’m neither here nor there about it, politically speaking. I’m not privy to any unknown facts. In fact, I don’t know much about it. I do understand the war on terror certainly shouldn’t lead to making an ash-heap of people’s civil rights. But this blog is about the music, in large part, so I’ll stick to my judgements on that. This new track is fairly middling by PJ Harvey standards. But most protest songs are artistically light, because they’re usually so basic in regard to the music and lyrically straight forward, like this one. I do understand the reason for this track, but I prefer a bit more complexity. It’s the same reason I prefer Pablo Neruda’s love poems to his political ones — or Dylan’s ethereal songs to his protest-era ones. Give me the strangely obtuse “Ballad of a Thin Man” over the sincere but elementary “The Times They Are a-Changin'” any day. If I truly want to be moved I’ll read Neruda’s “Wine” and “Body of a Woman”, not “Residencia en la tierra”. – David D. Robbins Jr.
PJ Harvey’s concert tonight at Royal Albert Hall is sold out. But don’t fret, because you can purchase an access code to watch it in an HD-quality live stream. The concert will start at 8 p.m. (U.K. time) today (Oct. 31st). Access codes will be available to purchase up until 7:55 p.m. The stream will chronicle the second of two sold-out nights at the Royal Albert Hall. It’s hard to believe, but it is her first appearance at the venue and this is also her last U.K. show of 2011. Click here to go to her official website, which has a splash page leading to information about the cost of watching the show, and how to view it. The show is in support of her latest release, “Let England Shake”. – David D. Robbins Jr.
Fresh off her second Mercury Prize win last week, PJ Harvey has a new I-Tunes Session up, featuring a mix of seven songs and a 24-minute interview. The session was recorded in April at East West Studios in Hollywood, California, and features songs from 2011’s “Let England Shake” and older tunes like “Angelene” and “Down By the Water”. You can purchase the sessions at this link. Also, read an archived Their Bated Breath post here. It’s my song-by-song review of the record, written as a listened to the album for the first time. I found this to be one of PJ’s strongest albums in years. It’s her direct look at what it means to be disillusioned. One of many highlights on the release, is “Hanging In the Wire”, one of the best song’s she’s ever written. Here’s how I described her song, “The Last Living Rose”, which she played during the I-Tunes Session: “Now this is genius. PJ’s voice is bathed in an aquatic reverb, recorded sounds, a tambourine, flute sounds like seagulls — heavily layered and prettily orchestrated. ‘The Last Living Rose’ is decidedly more straight-forward than ‘Let England Shake’. Instrumentally, it is full of brass, drums, and reminiscence about an England long gone: ‘Goddamned Europeans / Take me back to beautiful England / And the great and filthiness of ages / And battered books / And fog rolling down behind the mountains / On the graveyards and dead sea captains.’ My favorite line of the song carries on that theme further, of a nation sold out for nothing: “Past the Thames / River glistening /Like gold, hastily sold / For nothing! / Nothing!’ It’s both criticism and love song.” Listen to “Written on the Forehead” (album version) below. Note: Photo from I-Tunes store. – David D. Robbins Jr.
“The Glorious Land” is the fourth video in a series from PJ Harvey’s newest record, “Let England Shake”. My thoughts on the track, after first hearing it when it was first released, “It’s hard not to hear this record and specifically this track and imagine the Iraq War. Two countries marching side-by-side, making phony rallying calls in the background (like the trumpet) to spur on the misplaced patriotism of a nation. It’s a great indictment, that talks of a landscape that may as well serve as metaphor for the human heart. There’s no mincing words here.” – David D. Robbins Jr.
Just in case you missed it, PJ Harvey just streamed a full live concert. You can watch it in its entirety right here. Seventy minutes with encore, new songs and no cuts. Live from La Maroquinerie (Paris), Feb. 14th, 2011. The audience stands at rapt attention. At times you could hear a pin drop. Quite polite. Of course, many of the songs are from “Let England Shake” — but the encore includes of old favorites. The tracklist is as follows: 1. Let England Shake; 2. The Words That Maketh Murder; 3. All and Everyone; 4. The Big Guns Called Me Back Again; 5. Written On the Forehead; 6. In the Dark Places; 7. The Glorious Land; 8. The Last Living Rose; 9. England; 10. Bitter Branches; 11. Hanging in the Wire; 12. On Battleship Hill; 13. The Color of the Earth; 14. Down By the Water; 15. C’mon Billy; 16. Meet Ze Monsta; 17. Silence. Note: Read a track-by-track review of PJ’s new record here. Thanks to the website TwentyFourBit for the heads up about the video post. — David D. Robbins Jr.
First Impressions: PJ Harvey’s “Let England Shake”
David D. Robbins Jr. | Their Bated Breath
(Illustration mixes album art, original artwork, photos)
Below are my track-by-track thoughts as I listen to PJ Harvey’s “Let England Shake” for the first time. You can listen to a stream of the album at NPR’s First Listen.
*(Here is a quick impression after I listened to the entire record: This album is about a fallen England, the devastation of war, and the ravages of violent times, all told with an elegiac nostalgia, through images of World War I battles, apocalyptic visions, and countrysides where the only thing that flowers is death. Whew. Okay, there are those folks who say everything PJ does is genius. Then there are others who will trash this record as an artist who can’t get over herself. Truth is, it’s a pretty good record. But don’t think you’re going to hear a return to the guitar thrash out days of “Sheela-Na-Gig” or “50ft-Queenie”. This album and its lead track are a way of saying England is not what it used to be. It’s a proper song to start this record. It’s the clashing of the past and present, literally with two different tracks being played from two different eras. Figuratively, this record shows that England, like many nations, is made of two halves, much like Sinead O’Connor warned before PJ: “The mythical land of Madame George and roses”, is also “the home of police who kill black boys on mopeds.” PJ is one of the most inventive artists today. However, everything she touches doesn’t turn to gold. I still believe “Dry” and Rid of Me” are her best works, and “White Chalk” left me sighing and sleepy — only to be startled by some shrill high-pitched screeches. But that’s what happens when an artist takes risks. I will always respect that. “Let England Shake” is marvelous in parts, like “Hanging In The Wire”, one of the most beautiful songs she’s ever written. It may not be the kind of record that will be remembered as PJ’s best. But it is a cool re-imagining of what music can be and what it can do.)