PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project

by Jim Harris Rating:5 Release Date:2016-04-15

I was anxious to get this album as I kept hearing it was PJ Harvey’s strongest work since Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, which frankly I think of as being her best and most coherently listenable work. That album captured the essence of living in New York City with a wonderfully cohesive esthetic. The minimalist electric guitar, the images of sitting on the rooftops, and the most memorable is a simple song of two lovers chasing each other around a dining room table. It all was very nicely done. It’s one of my favorite albums of all time.

But previously and since, for the most part, Harvey seems to tinker with different musical directions and consistently asks too much of a listener for my tastes. This I’m me and I can pull this off as with the dissonance and anger in her early work and on through her eclectic later albums, I just don’t buy into the genius label many put on her.  And with The Hope Six Demolition Project, Harvey just doesn’t have enough substance, both musically and lyrically, to convince me otherwise.

Musically, the dark, foreboding background vocals of many of the songs are overdone, calling a little too much attention to the fairly facile lyrics.  The song, ‘Medicinals’ is just lyrically trite.  An Indian woman wearing a Redskins cap and drinking a new painkiller called alcohol.  Well, it’s not a new painkiller and has been observed as a problem for a couple centuries.  And the irony of wearing a Redskins cap is a bit too ironic without a message.  This sort of immature observational approach is in many of the lyrics as Harvey appears to have rode through Washington D.C. instead of gotten out and dug her nails in, so to speak.  Her twangy song, Near the Memorials of Vietnam and Lincoln, just stays on the surface, as if passing through in a cab (As I have done many times) observing plastic chairs on the grass, etc.  Perhaps she might have a different perspective of the black obelisk with names on it that make up the Vietnam Memorial if she would have spoken with or observed the people who touch it when they find the name of their departed?  And her supposedly biting lyrics about passing a shit school in Washington D.C. and seeing plastic spoons and syringes?  (Polly, come spend a day with me.  I’ll show you some shit schools and parking lots with syringes and such just around the corner, in well, most anywhere in the Great American Wasteland…)

No, Harvey sounds primarily smug in her minimal observations on this one.  And outside of a couple of songs (‘A Line in the Sand’, ‘The Wheel’) the music seems tied up in being a tourist in the places she visited, and building a mangled, jazzy set of military marches instead of a tight set of songs that capture that place she visited.  You just hope the food was good.

Comments (4)

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I've been waiting to hear this one. Your biting review actually makes me want to hear this one even more...

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I listened to this yesterday and then promptly revisited Stories..., I agree with you, there is no comparison.

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Where Stories... was a poignant and focused work, this new record just kinda rambles.

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Well, I think you have a point about the editorialising, it's all a bit vapid, but musically its a fascinating piece. I'm liking it without loving it.

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