- Audio CD (14 Feb. 2011)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Single
- Label: Universal / Island
- ASIN: B004IXJEWK
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,353 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Let England Shake Single
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PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake was recorded in a 19th Century church in Dorset, on a clifftop overlooking the sea. It was created with a cast of musicians including such long-standing allies as Flood, John Parish, and Mick Harvey. It is the eighth PJ Harvey album, following 2007’s acclaimed White Chalk, and the Harvey/Parish collaboration A Woman A Man Walked By. Let England Shake evokes the troubled spirit of 2010, but it also casts its mind back to times and places from our long collective memory. In keeping with such imaginative intentions, its music has a rare breadth and emotional power. Nearly two decades after she made her first records, it proves that not just that its author refuses to stand still, but that her creative confidence may well be at an all-time high. It is safe to say that you will not have heard anything like it before.
10 years after her album Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea scooped the Mercury Music Prize, PJ Harvey became the first artist to win it twice when Let England Shake was also awarded the prestigious prize in 2011.
The title of Polly Harvey’s seventh album, 2007’s White Chalk, seemed to address England’s psycho-geography by way of Dover’s iconic coastline. Perhaps that’s projection. But her eighth most definitely does. It’s a concept album, folks. Songtitles include The Last Living Rose, England and The Glorious Land, with a distinct whiff of landscape and legend. A fragile Hanging in the Wire even namechecks "the white hills of Dover". Pete Doherty doesn’t have a copyright on singing about Albion, you know.
Going by her latest photos, Harvey’s position as the alternative Lady Gaga, confounding expectations and changing hair styles at each turn, remains undiminished. This time, the black gown and headpiece screams Hel, the Norse God of the dead. And when you read the lyric sheet, death fair stares you in the face. Its first words are "Let England shake / Weighed down with silent dead"; The Last Living Rose sings of "the grey damp filthiness of ages," and it turns out "the glorious fruit of our land" is "orphaned children". Add various references – Battleship Hill, Bolton Ridge, the Anzac trench – to the disastrous Allied invasion of Galipoli, Turkey in World War One and we appear to have a psycho-geographic lament around the perils of colonialism and the ravages of war that resonate right up to the present.
As a backdrop to this brutal battlefield, Harvey has shifted from White Chalk’s gaunt piano ballads to a broader sound that is no less feverish and close to the bone. Imagine a minimalist take on her debut album Dry’s folk-blues tilt, all urgent and wiry rhythm. It’s recorded mostly live with multi-instrumental support from the long-serving John Parrish and (former Bad Seed) Mick Harvey. But there are subtle additions; the signature horse’n’ hounds bugle leading the hunt is woven into a shifty The Glorious Land, the Bulgarian women’s choral wail (shouldn’t that be Turkish?) on the otherwise skeletal England. There is a playful reference to Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues via "what if I take my troubles to the United Nations?" into a skiffle-shaped The Words That Maketh Murder; but this is categorically a sad, despairing album. It ends with The Colour of the Earth, where a host of male voices (including the band) and Polly recall a soldier cut down in action and now "nothing but a pile of bones".
Ah, Earth, so much to answer for. But thankfully we have PJ with another fearsomely creative, emotional record to lead the resistance. God bless unique, unfathomable, great Queen Polly.
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Top Customer Reviews
What makes the record so effective is the voice used: the tone of both the lyrics and the singing conveys the lives of the combatants as if the singer were a ghost floating over the old battlefields, briefly wakening the dead. Individual stories are brought to life for a few minutes, usually with a focus on a single emotion for each song, and the effect is strongly moving. The music is mostly fairly simple with a strong melody; snatches of lyrics and music from other records visit occasionally adding a layer of often darkly comic humour.
To say this is an anti-war album is to perhaps miss the point; it depicts the brutality and violence of war without flinching, but it is clearly a record on the side of the individuals who fought in the wars, and English individuals at that. Anyone with an interest in the history of English/British or ANZAC conflicts of the past two hundred years will find this a very emotional set of songs, and a moving tribute to those whom circumstances forced to fight.
Of course for all that PJ is not a poet and without music to match this would not be a great album. The music is actually quite difficult to describe as it sounds unlike anything she has recorded before and yet entirely like her. Looser than usual, it is more melodious than she has allowed herself to be in the past, and at times with it's strummed autoharp and guitars it could almost be described as folk-rock (at times the feel of this record is also similar to The Velvet's third album as a guide). PJ's voice retains much of the higher range debuted on White Chalk but is richer than on that record. There are no weak tracks here but the standout for me is the central section of All & Everyone, Battleship Hill and England, it is quite simply as beautiful a run of three songs as I can remember.Read more ›
A lament on the waste of war, on the human condition, and for the England of myth and legend. It is ethereal in a sense, like a walk through an unearthly washed-out wasteland of England's green and pleasant land, where experiences and visions of wars come in and out of sharp focus from the past and the present, unbounded by time and place.
The music is evocative of this England that she is referencing - rock with multi-cultural motifs but grounded in an almost traditional English folk simplicity.
But it is also a very real and intensely personal political statement, a call away from arms and the cycle of war, to her country that she cannot but love.
I find some of her lyrics frustratingly too obscure to decipher her exact meaning, but nevertheless it is music that resonates and I think, touches an on unease that many people feel about the loss of life and limb that has become so much a part of the fabric of out lives today and that we are told politically is a justifiable sacrifice.
In the 80's every new female artist was compared to Kate Bush. Now the likes of Anna Calvi et al are compared to PJ Harvey. That should be a measure of her current standing. This offering only cements her place. 'I live and die through England' PJ Harvey declares at the start of her acoustic ode to her mother country. Listening to this you know she believes that in her soul. Heartfelt and meaningful this is a very accomplished album. It also is that rare thing - an album put together by someone who believes every word she sings.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
as finer body of work ever produced by a native of this glorious land !Published 3 months ago by bryan donaldson
Another brilliant album by PJ Harvey seller was super quick and quality assured.Published 3 months ago by Neil