PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

PJ Harvey
Let England Shake
Vagrant Records

Right off the bat, song three, “The Glorious Land”, Ms. Harvey, just because you learned about horns does not mean you should just errantly drop a horn riff all willy nilly in the middle of a song. It’s totally distracting and takes a listener right out of the song. The nice, subtle hits you use on “The Words That Maketh Murder” are pretty awesome, they work well, propel the song forward and give it a nice bit of depth. But that all-to-familiar-but-still-can’t-put-my-finger-on-it horn riff in “The Glorious Land” bothers me to no end. I am, in fact having a very hard time concentrating on writing this review because of it.

Secondly, yr caterwauling at the beginning of “England” needs to stop. Perfectly good, mild song, placed perfectly in the middle of this album, but that beginning just fucks up my brain. I don’t know what nationality of folk music you brought that from but that shit needs to stop. It’s as bad as that damn off tempo horn riff we already talked about.

Third, and this might be do to the fact that I have been playing bass in a band for the last six weeks or so, WHERE THE FUCK IS THE LOW END? Look, I checked the settings on my computer and in my car while listening to this album and there is no low-end. I am getting tired of these so-called musicians dismissing the bass. I curse thee with a lifetime of haunting by The Minutemen. Take note here you indie rockers, bass is an instrument and a pretty fucking crucial one in rock and roll music. Most guitarists aren’t talented enough to provide a full, rich sound. Further, no one is getting laid while listening to your album if there is no bass. That’s where the sex comes from. You can’t have Sexy without the sex. And while I find PJ Harvey’s music very sensual, though not so much here on Let England Shake, no bass = no booth.

What I am trying to say here is that Let England Shake, the twentymillonth PJ Harvey album she has put out post Rid Of Me is more, weird, experimentation on her part. Much like her fellow countrymen in Radiohead, PJ has utilized most of her career to abandon the parts of her music that made her awesome. Namely, her great, loud, ballsy as fuck guitar playing. In fact, two of my favorite guitarists, Diane Foglizzio of Trophy Wife and Aimee Argote of des_ark play guitar like you used to, with a ferocity most dudes take for granted. Coincidentally, both of these ladies don’t use bass in their music, because they are that good (though I still wish there was low-end, but that’s because I like bass). Even worse, the vocals, there not that good. There really weird, and not just PJ Harvey weird, just weird. I think this has a lot to do with her recent love for global folk music. But this just sounds like an imitation to me, instead of a natural presentation.

I get it, I’m being really harsh on the giants of Indie Rock this week. It’s not an easy task, the positions I am taking are not going to make me popular. Especially since I don’t use commas properly. But whatever, I guess I’m just really getting tired of all these once great performers making really mediocre music in the name of exploration and experimentation. I don’t want to sound like I am faulting anyone here for trying to reach out of the boundaries of their culture and personal history, but I guess the application of discovery is falling short on my ears. There are really interesting, unique moments on this new album here from PJ, but mostly it just lacks any type of dynamic or punch. If I have learned anything from my friends who make music, you can be subtle and crushing at the same time. You can have soft tones and take breaths away. You can kick out crazy vocal parts, with unique, non-traditional voices and totally fuck shit up. You can grow and expand your sound and reach beyond your own limitations and take from the air amazing music. But it has to work. Indie rock is just not working for me these days, mostly because it lacks the integral ingredient: ROCK.