PJ Harvey – LET ENGLAND SHAKE
Admittedly it was a deliberately contrarian move – to say The Waterboys’ An Appointment With Mr. Yeats was the best album of 2011. Mike Scott’s guts are not in doubt, but in the face of such reckless charm – what chance did anybody have?
White Chalk was a low-key Gothic triumph, but Let England Shake was PJ Harvey’s greatest reinvention yet. A war poet – dark, brutally honest and full of great verses. And great tunes, too, in spite of her modesty. “England” may not always be an easy listen, but once you discover how beautiful that vocal melody really is, you have to give in. And then there’s also powerful immediacy about songs like “The Last Living Rose” and “In The Dark Places”.
However, my absolute favourite moment on this album, and one rock music offers only on rare occasion, comes at the beginning of “The Glorious Land”. That unsettling trumpet jumping literally out of nowhere, is sheer inspirational genius. In fact, it was that trumpet that made it obvious to me, on my first listen to Let England Shake, that this was destined to be special.
There has always been something imperfect and intriguing (these two things could be connected) about PJ Harvey. Rid Of Me was overrated and the hugely celebrated Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea was, I thought, generic modern rock. And even when she was good, she was inconsistent. “A Perfect Day Elise” sitting side by side with “My Beautiful Leah”.
To Bring You My Love was the one, of course, bruising and intense from start to finish. Now, after 2011, I’m not too sure. Until I hear that trumpet in “The Glorious Land”, that is.