PJ Harvey’s acclaimed new record opens with the title track, ‘Let England Shake’. It is an eerie, intimate song, all spacey autoharp and brushed cymbals. It reaches out for a martyr whose smile might save England from its rot: ‘Bobby’, who will splash around in ‘a fountain of death’ and ‘laugh out loud’.
It’s a blood lust for the ancient practice of English Revolutions, and an uncanny hymn to possible future ones - and all the repressed forces they might unleash. Strange and apt that this record should be released now, striking a weird harmony with the reverberating aftermath of Egypt and Tunisia and the rumbling overtures in the rest of the Arab world.
Harvey sings:The West is lost, let England shake
Weighted down with silent dead
I fear our blood won’t rise again
Harvey has always found a way to sing the unsayable and here she sings the word England without apology. The album is a dirge for England and also a warning.
Watch out to take care of your English shame, your English pride, and your English indifference - lest they be lost in blood spilled elsewhere in pointless, nameless war.
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