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Thread: Let England Shake: the all-purpose thread.

  1. #1516
    Alt Universe CliqueMember Spikey's Avatar
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    Have fun Menju! I'm enjoying mine so much it's hard to describe.

    The artwork indeed is simple, but really stylish.

  2. #1517
    Lyrical acuity and mum-smarts menju56's Avatar
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    Thanks! I will be sure to post some thoughts once I've listened. I'm coming to most of it completely new; I heard tiny little snippets of some songs in a couple of audio interviews but that's it.

    Also, what you said on the last page about The Guns Called Me Back Again - I know I haven't heard the record yet, but that's so going on my mix of it. I think it's absolutely beautiful! Also looking forward to The Nightingale.

  3. #1518
    Alt Universe CliqueMember Spikey's Avatar
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    We should be doing a listening party soon.

  4. #1519
    Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras Malike-pakile's Avatar
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    I'd participate!
    I can't get enough of this album. I really have to force myself to listen to something else. The music just draws me in and wants me to sit down, read the lyrics and take it all in. It's spooky.

  5. #1520
    Lyrical acuity and mum-smarts menju56's Avatar
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    Suzanne Moore's column in the Mail on Sunday tomorrow has a little bit about PJ

    Prescient PJ, she’s a national treasure



    All hail P. J. Harvey, who is releasing her album with the prescient title Let England Shake this week.

    She remains one of the most interesting musicians around. I loved the moment she appeared, weirdly enough, on the Andrew Marr Show. Marr had just been interviewing Gordon Brown and they both sat there awkwardly as she performed.

    She was playing a harp and wearing a magnificent feather headdress, as you do of a Sunday morning. She is a one-off.

    An English treasure, to be sure.

  6. #1521
    A Matter Of How You See It Kala's Avatar
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    Icon15

    MJ: Yes, your publicist said you have a distaste for what he called "celebrity-type" questions. Do you have kind of an ambivalent relationship with the press?

    PJH: I'm a very private person, so obviously I don't enjoy talking about more personal matters. But at the same time I care very much about my work and I would like people to know that it exists. So I appreciate that there's a meeting point, where I would like people to know about the work that I'm doing, and that requires me to talk about it.
    She's like a breath of fresh air in a world filled with *celebrities* who twat on about everything and nothing.

  7. #1522
    ANUSTART Lathan's Avatar
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    ^ Agreed.

    (And I love 'twat' as a verb!)

  8. #1523
    The New Classic marci's Avatar
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    Oh hai, I'm a new PJ convert!

    I've listened to PJ before and I like some of her material, but nothing "got to me" until now. I decided to give Let England Shake a try since there has been a lot of talk about it on the forum. OMG! I haven't stopped playing it since this morning. I'm quite a fan! All of the tracks fit so well together and it's a rarity to be able to play an album straight through without wanting to skip a few tracks. Most of the tracks provide such a depth in atmosphere.. they really make me think.. and create lots of visuals for me. Very atmospheric. I love it!

  9. #1524
    A Matter Of How You See It Kala's Avatar
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    New convert here too! I heard my first PJ song less than a month ago and just this afternoon listened to the new album. I've had In the Dark Places and Bitter Branches on repeat repeat. So happy the mod's created this forum.

  10. #1525
    Lyrical acuity and mum-smarts menju56's Avatar
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    ^ Yay!

    I've just had my first full run-through of the album. Wow; it's quite a lot to take in. Very different to pretty much anything she's done before, which is quite a feat. General first-listen observations include: I'm going to have to get used to the absence of the Constantinople sample in "Let England Shake," it sounded weird to me without it! I adore her voice on "England." "Hanging in the Wire" might be one of the most beautiful songs she's ever written and it's even more effective looking at how creepy you can interpret the lyrics as being. "The Colour of the Earth" leaps out as an example of doing the very simple, nursery rhyme-type melody she was talking about. "All and Everyone" struck me as being pretty heavy and solemn. Definitely hearing some Cocteau Twins in the guitar effects on certain songs. And it's very early days but I'm calling "In the Dark Places" (or "The Last Living Rose") as second single. Something about it made me think, 'hmm, single.'

    On to listen number two!

  11. #1526
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    I lost resolve and listened.

    Seriously amazing stuff. Hanging in the Wire gave me a visceral, unpleasant experience. Christ!

    England and Bitter Branches are my favorites thus far.

  12. #1527
    Get Out The Dark Adam's Avatar
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    Menju, I think In The Dark Places just HAS to be the next single.

  13. #1528
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    By the way does anyone know what instrument that is in the Kurdish song sample?

  14. #1529
    Lyrical acuity and mum-smarts menju56's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by electrickidz View Post
    Menju, I think In The Dark Places just HAS to be the next single.
    I'm not alone!

    On my second listen now. Another thing I like is how she's singing in her natural Dorset accent. I mean she pretty much always has, but I notice it more here for some reason and it feels appropriate.

    The "we're advancing..." bit of "All and Everyone" is gorgeous. And then that extended slow coda with the sax/trombone and guitar and percussion.

    Also, the beginning of "On Battleship Hill" totally reminds of Nina Simone "See Line Woman"! And woah at how high her voice goes on the first verse.

  15. #1530
    Lyrical acuity and mum-smarts menju56's Avatar
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    Review in The Observer

    As befits its title, there is a whole lotta shaking going on on PJ Harvey's eighth album. First to quake is the assumption that Polly Harvey is foremost an artist of the interior, mapping the jagged peaks of desire and the boggy ground of memory. Let England Shake leaves behind the haunted psycho-geography of Harvey's native Dorset, rendered so exquisitely on her last album, White Chalk, and deploys her to an entirely new arena. Over the course of a dozen songs, she examines war, its human cost and her beloved England's role as aggressor and saviour, haven and purgatory.

    Even if Harvey disavows a political motive, you would call this a protest record. After all, Harvey did premiere the title track on The Andrew Marr Show in front of Gordon Brown – lest we forget, the bankroller of the Iraq war and the man accused of ill-equipping British forces in Afghanistan. But rather than agitating, Harvey concentrates on bearing witness to armed conflict, from the Gallipoli slaughter of the first world war to the present day. She notes the arms and legs in the trees, the colour of blood on sand and the scent of thyme on the wind all commingling.

    Her point is unmistakable – war is both abhorrent and endlessly recurring. But Let England Shake is magnificently ambivalent about her own native soil. Track two, "The Last Living Rose", hymns an England that isn't too far from Peter Doherty's Albion, extolling "the grey damp filthiness of ages/And battered books/And fog rolling down behind the mountains/On the graveyards of dead sea-captains".

    On the next track, "The Glorious Land", England no longer shakes to the age-old rumble of the plough, but the thunder of tanks practising manoeuvres. "Oh! America! Oh! En-ger-land!" she sings, exasperated at the entwined aggressive destinies of her musical homeland and her physical one. Harvey's music started out as a kind of spiky, post-Beefheart blues, but this song finds her taking firm root in the English folk tradition.

    There is always a risk that an album full of war poetry might feel like a downer. But the payload of grief on Let England Shake is made infinitely more bearable by music that really shakes, too. "On Battleship Hill" is a fluent shimmy you could move to, if you weren't dancing on "caved-in trenches". "The Last Living Rose", too, bobs along kinetically, punctuated by superbly succinct incursions of brass and guitar.

    There are ironic, out-of-time bugles here, and lamenting Kurdish singers carrying along the idea of an England that bleeds out into the world. But the album's one questionable move is the skank of "Written on the Forehead" – it interpolates "Blood and Fire", a roots reggae tune by Niney the Observer, in a way that feels a touch tokenistic.

    Of course, Harvey offers no solution. When, on "The Words That Maketh Murder", she sings, "Why don't I take my problems to the United Nations?" it's in playful tribute to Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues". But running through Let England Shake is, perhaps, the unspoken hope that this land might be reminded of the horrors of war and, perhaps, shake off some of its torpor. (Kitty Empire)
    And also from The Guardian, more about Polly possibly becoming a sort of "war song correspondent"

    The avant-garde rock star PJ Harvey is being given the chance to travel to conflict zones where the British army is fighting by the Imperial War Museum.

    The songs on Harvey's new album, Let England Shake, reflect her strong emotional response to living through a period of war in the Middle East and to other people's memories of previous campaigns. The 41-year-old singer from Dorset composed her album by imagining she had already been given the job of "official war song correspondent".

    Already tipped to win the Mercury prize, Let England Shake, which is released tomorrow, includes the track The Words That Maketh Murder. The album's first single, its lyrics include a serviceman's recollection: "Soldiers fell like lumps of meat, blown and shot out beyond belief, arms and legs were in the trees". Another track, This Glorious Land, depicts a countryside ploughed up "by tanks and feet marching".

    "We are certainly interested in working with PJ Harvey," said Roger Tolson, the museum's head of collections. "It is something we can take forward as we have never commissioned anybody in that capacity. We have other kinds of works of art using sound, like the art of Susan Philipsz, who won the last Turner prize, but we have never sent a musician out to a conflict zone."

    Tolson said the museum wanted "a different perspective". "We want to find fresh pairs of eyes, although in this case it would be a fresh voice," he said.

    The initiative was prompted by an interview Harvey gave last week to Radio 4's Front Row. She told presenter John Wilson she would have gone out to write songs in the field of battle had she had been asked. "I would have relished that," she said. "I find myself more and more yearning to do work like that, even if there is no such official appointment, to just go out there anyway."

    The suggestion was applauded by Jeremy Deller, who won the Turner prize in 2004 and whose sculpture 5 March 2007, made from the bombed wreck of a Baghdad car, provoked strong reactions at the war museum in London last September.

    "Why not have a response in music?" asked Deller. "It would be brilliant. It would be unexpected as well because it is usually men going out there. It would be a breath of fresh air."

    Harvey researched a range of conflicts for two and a half years before writing the lyrics of her songs as poems and then setting them to music. She read firsthand accounts of war, watched documentaries and spoke to survivors.

    One track, Written On The Forehead, is about modern Iraq, while Bitter Branches reflects warfare waged in a Russian landscape. "I was wanting to show the way that history repeats itself, and so in some ways it doesn't matter what time it was, because the endless cycle goes on and on and on," she said.

    The album, recorded in a church in her home town of Bridport, was inspired by Harvey's interest in current affairs and the nature of journalism.

    "I started wondering where the officially appointed war songwriter was," she told Wilson. "You have got your war artists, like Steve McQueen, and your war photographers. I fantasised that I had been appointed this official songwriter and so I almost took on that challenge for myself."

    Tolson said he would now put forward Harvey's name to the museum's committee for discussion. "I know this makes it sound very bureaucratic, but there are other ways too. Some of our most interesting work is not committee-led – for example, our work with Jeremy Deller."

    The museum's collection celebrates the work of war artists down the ages, but its aesthetic has broadened. It no longer simply records the achievements of man as a fighting machine; it also gives space to alternative visions of the devastating effects of war.

    Tolson added: "The first thing will be to see if PJ is interested in visiting this area after making her album. I am clear she would have welcomed the chance to go out there, but my sense is that she considers her projects very carefully."

    He also acknowledged that the aims of the artist might not fit with the support his museum could offer.

    "We could certainly offer to facilitate it. But sometimes we are not able to help and sometimes we might actually hinder," said Tolson. "We realise that making any sense of it all is very, very difficult while a conflict is still ongoing."

    THE ART OF WAR

    Paul Nash


    Nash's paintings of the blasted landscapes of the trenches are emblematic of the devastation of the first world war. His 1918 work, We Are Making a New World, above, is typical.

    Henry Moore

    The sculptor spent much time down in Aldwych underground station, escaping the bombs of the blitz. His Tube Shelter Perspective (1941) is a disturbing depiction of sleeping bodies.

    Peter Howson

    As the official British war artist in Bosnia, Howson was affected by the bullying he encountered among soldiers and has since battled with drink and drugs. One controversial painting, Croatian and Muslim, depicts a rape.

    Steve McQueen

    Appointed a CBE this year, the Turner prize winner was the official war artist in Iraq in 2006. His Queen And Country marked the deaths of British soldiers by displaying their portraits as a sheet of stamps.

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