PJ Harvey’s been one of those artists on my periphery for an extended period of time. I’ve been told by many I should give her a spin. I’ve seen my fair share of astonished looks when I say “I’ve just not given her the time”. I’ve relished this opportunity to finally sit down and spend some quality time with the inimitable Polly Jean Harvey.
Opener ‘The Community of Hope’ is a triumphant, and controversial, critique of the underside of Washington DC. In fact, the whole album was written during her travels to DC, Kosovo, and Afghanistan and it is clear throughout the album that the album exists as a mezze of different musical genres. Take ‘A Line in the Sand’, for example where Harvey’s vocals take on the ear piercing beauty of late soul singer Minnie Riperton.
‘River Anacostia’ is a haunting track all the way through, however it is the incessant and metronomic refrain of “wade in the water” at the end that imbues the track with a whole new level of menace. In contrast, ‘Medicinals’ is a boisterous and exuberant track that owes a lot to Kate Bush’s playful vocals (minus the startlingly high-pitched yelping). ‘The Ministry of Social Affairs’ feels like it should have been released by some James Chancesque no wave band in 1981 due to its wailing and diabolical saxophone ending. Album closer ‘Dollar, Dollar’ is the most experimental track on this album. It is a slow and almost alien recording that seems to bring together the melange of influences that she picked up from her travels and in life.
I started this album as a novice PJ Harvey listener but after listening to The Hope Six Demolition Project a couple of times it became clear that I’ve really fucking missed it. I’ve been told that there’s better albums of hers out there, and if that’s the case I’m looking forward to soundtracking the last few assignments of this year to them.