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Published: 2011/04/05
by Ron Hart

PJ Harvey
Let England Shake
Vagrant

“Goddamn Europeans, take me back to beautiful England,” proclaims Polly Jean Harvey on “The Last Living Rose,” the second cut off her Vagrant debut and best work since 1995’s To Bring You My Love. Recorded in a 19th century church overlooking the sea in her hometown of Dorset, Let England Shake finds PJ hunkering down with longtime collaborators John Parish, Mick Harvey and Flood to craft a striking balance between the visceral truthfulness of her early years and the ruffled elegance of her most recent material that serves as a vessel to extrapolate her views on the myriad issues plaguing her motherland at the present time.

As if to have been feeding off the authenticity of their classically English surroundings, Polly and her cohorts deliver some of the most illuminating commentaries on the state and status of Great Britain, both internally and within the context of the rest of the world, this side of The Village Green Preservation Society. And intertwined within the nationalistic tendencies of the album are snatches of Harvey’s iPod rotation as the groove of They Might Be Giants’ version of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” imbues the opening title track while Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” bleeds into the vernacular of lead single “The Words That Maketh Murder” and the chorus of Niney the Observer’s dirt-floor dub classic “Blood and Fire” infiltrates “Written On The Forehead.” After a decade of releases that barely held a candle to the primal sneer of Dry and Rid of Me, good golly is it great to hear pretty Polly get her weird back on this mid-period masterpiece.

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