PJ Harvey | Shaker Aamer

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.

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