I had no clue that PJ Harvey was releasing an album this month, or anytime soon, for that matter. While looking for something to review for the second half of April, I stumbled upon the new album – Hope Six Demolition Project. Now I’m glad I did.
PJ Harvey Hope Six Demolition Project Review
First off, I’m a bit biased in PJ Harvey’s favor. I’ve been a fan ever since I heard some of her collaborations with Josh Homme in some of his Desert Sessions recordings. Of course, discovering her back-catalog only made the infatuation grow, and now we’ve got this new album to add to the roster. So if there’s one thing you should know before you continue to read my take on her new album, it is that I love PJ Harvey. Her voice and words melt my spine. But I’ll get on with it.
The album was recorded in London in 2015 during an art residency, but the songs were written during travels between 2011 and 2014 that took Harvey to Kosovo and Washington D.C. (of all places).
Five years in the making, and borrowing from the soundscapes of geographical (and political and religious?) opposites, the result is a finely-crafted edifice of sound and noise, built up out of so many seemingly-mismatched parts.
The first track – and a track that has generated criticism from Washington politicians – is Community of Hope. Weaving a sonic tapestry of lackluster schools and neighborhoods without restaurants for the people who live there, as well as the Department of Homeland Security building that replaced a mental hospital, PJ’s delivering some solid punches about the plight of an urban neighborhood. And there’s no shortage of commentary online about what is being mentioned literally in her song, or about how block-headed the British bombshell is. But Community of Hope could work equally as well for a commentary on where America is and where it’s headed. By painting pictures of a dilapidated and decrepit America that neglects its own social crises to wage war abroad in support of capitalist interests, this isn’t so much about Washington D.C. as it is about the country it represents.
Further exploration of Hope Six Demolition Project reveals a bluesy streak beneath a rock and roll veneer, mingling with gospel singing and voices calling out in Pashto. Touching on a deliciously discordant and wailing sax on Ministry of Social Affairs, and the babbling maelstrom of car horns and traffic sounds that opens the final track Dollar, Dollar, this work of art offers itself up as a masterful, thoughtful portrait of people and places that, though hailing from very specific locales, could really be anywhere. And while every track is fresh and adventurous, it’s always bona fide Polly Jean Harvey.
Hope Six Demolition Project was released on Friday, April 15th. It’s available on vinyl and CD from select retailers, and as a digital download from iTunes and the Amazon Digital Music Store. Or you can stream the whole thing in all its glory on Spotify to get your instant gratification on.