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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Hope Six Demolition Project

PJ Harvey's latest album, The Hope Six Demolition Project, is fantastic, her best since To Bring You My Love. Every song is good, and there are some insanely catchy hooks and savage rhythms. It is also something of a themed album about urban renewal.

Inspired by a trip to Washington, D.C., the opening song, "The Community of Hope," is specifically about a neighborhood that is being gentrified, or as Harvey sings, "They're going to a put a Walmart here." The next song, "The Ministry of Defence," paints a horrid picture of urban blight:

"This is the ministry of remains
fizzy drink cans, magazines
broken glass, a white jawbone
syringes, razors, a plastic spoon
human hair, a kitchen knife
and the ghost of a girl who runs and hides"

That's some brilliant poetry, but the music also works on simply a rock and roll level, and would be great even if the words weren't understood. "Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln" is as catchy a song as you're likely to hear, but again fits into the D.C. theme, as does "River Anacostia" and "Medicinals," in which she wanders the National Mall, wondering about the plant life that lives there.

Simply put, this is some of the most powerful rock music I've heard in a while, and re-established Harvey as a major player on the rock scene. Her last several albums, while good, were somewhat experimental in tone. This one, despite it being something of a philippic, drives with a kind of primitive beat, reminiscent of African and Native American rhythms.

Harvey wrote all the music, but kudos are due her longtime collaborator John Parish, who provides the percussion. "Chain of Keys," "The Orange Monkey," and "Medicinals" are heavy on percussion, and as someone who always wanted to be a drummer, it's the kind of rock I like best.

Harvey, who isn't exactly an artist who burns up the charts, actually got some notice for this record. with D.C. politicians blasting her for her lyrics. I have no idea who's right or who's wrong on this (generally I'll take a musician over a politician) but it's great that she's stirring up commentary.

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