Album reviews

PJ Harvey: ‘Let England Shake’

By James Reed
Globe Staff / February 22, 2011

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PJ Harvey has long talked about her fear of repeating herself, a worry that’s driven the English rocker and songwriter to make some of the most thrilling and quixotic music of the past 20 years. Her latest album marks yet another sea change, a clanging, clamoring work of art that’s as disturbing as it is moving. “Let England Shake’’ is staggering, from its seasick melodies to its visceral imagery of soldiers falling like “lumps of meat.’’ It’s a heavy listen, for sure, with a strange brew of disorienting sounds; check out those ricocheting xylophone rhythms over the strum of a discordant autoharp on the title track. The driving guitars sound like they’re submerged on “The Glorious Land,’’ on which Harvey considers the devastation war has wreaked on her homeland: “How is our glorious country ploughed?/ Not by iron ploughs/ Our land is ploughed by tanks and feet marching.’’ Amid the bloodshed and destruction, there’s also an ethereal ballad (“Hanging in the Wire’’) and remnants of Harvey’s ’90s alt-rock roots (“In the Dark Places’’). Harvey can rest assured that “Let England Shake’’ won’t remind anyone of her previous work — or that of anyone else, for that matter. (Out now)

ESSENTIAL “Let England Shake’’