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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Let England Shake
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on 26 April 2017
Good album, not one of my favourites from PJ Harvey
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on 19 May 2015
Not the warmest record in the world; with a hint of Kate Bush and Protools.
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on 26 April 2017
a classic
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VINE VOICEon 21 February 2013
Every song on this album is a war story, usually sung from the point of view of a protagonist. Some of the stories mention known events (Gallipoli is in several songs) while others are from the general viewpoint of a soldier serving at the front. Most fit easily into a Great War frame of reference, while some could depict examples of partisan movements and more recent conflicts.

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.
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on 28 February 2014
I pretty much ignored all of PJ Harvey's career while I was growing up (there are only so many bands you have time to listen to after all) but as I reach my own mid-thirties I've tried to open myself up to new music more. I found this on youtube, had a listen, and immediately ordered the CD. It was so good I was practically floored. Dark and bleak, it's a bitter celebration of England and its bloody history. These songs are so good they just won't let you go. I knew PJ Harvey was a good songwriter, but I didn't she was this good. From now I'll be going back through her entire career, one album at a time. This album is just majestic. Everyone should own it.
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on 1 August 2011
This is meant to be PJ Harvey's war album and the lyrics, music and feel give you no doubt that Polly Jean Harvey has put a lot of effort into this. There are 12 tracks of short doses of lyrical and musical feats centring around that theme and and the theme of England. Guitars and a very strong percussion accompany the different forms of Harveys voice to give a driven feel throughout. Sometimes she sounds almost operatic and others just angry - sometimes in the same song. The overall effect of this is quite dizzying and it takes a while to appreciate the scope of this album. Tracks like Bitter Branches and Last Living Rose are immediate whilst other take their time to appeal. But they get there. Even when the bugle of The Glorious Land comes in you are a little taken aback at first - but it makes sense with the lyrics. And the lyrics need mentioning. They are quite brilliant - descriptive and concise they are the focus of this album. This album will be up there at the end of the year - already nominated for a Mercury. And it deserves to be.

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.
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on 20 February 2011
Beautiful, mournful, frightening, poetic.

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.
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on 6 August 2011
This is a brilliant new album from PJ Harvey! The twelve songs are all about war in general and The Great War in particular, the war that devastated Europe and was supposed to be The War To End All Wars. We know how that turned out. Several of the songs are about the bloody 1915 battle of Gallipoli, based on the book "Voices of Gallipoli." The songs are sparse but rich, with powerful lyrics describing the horrors of war from the perspective of the young soldiers who are slaughtered in them. LET ENGLAND SHAKE was recorded in a beautiful old church in Dorset, pictured in the booklet and inlay. The sound is resonant, and features Harvey, Jon Parish, Mick Harvey, and Jean-Marc Butty. Harvey learned to play the autoharp for these songs, and it is heard on four tracks.

Lest one think that the album is utterly bleak, many of these dark songs are quite catchy and toe-tapping. Some are more compelling than others, but the combined effect, the album as a whole, is greater than any individual part. The tone is relatively light and restrained given the subject matter. Harvey sings in her upper register. To me it sounds like it could be a recent Mekons album, particularly Journey to the End of the Night from 2000 (see my review). Given that the Mekons are among my favorite artists, I mean that as the highest praise.

Though Harvey clearly situates LET ENGLAND SHAKE in the context of British history and culture, and it will certainly speak to a British listener in a way that others might not totally understand, the theme is obviously universal, and unfortunately timeless as well. One song ("Written On the Forehead") could easily be about the contemporary invasion and occupation of Iraq, though it could be about the Ottoman lands of 1915.

Others have analyzed the album's place in the trajectory of PJ Harvey's music. I want to stress that in its own right this is a powerful piece of art that should be heard whether you are a fan of her previous music or not. Definitely one of the best of the year early on.
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on 29 August 2011
Quite simply, this is the best album of the year so far. Well, of the albums that this reviewer has heard anyway. An album of outstanding quality and variation. Piercing lyrics, haunting vocals; it always keeps you on your toes. I won't go in to all the highlights of this record, but 'Battleship Hill' and 'England' make for a glorious mid section...most albums you hear nowadays are top heavy with the better tracks at the front of the album, save a good one for the album closer, and then have a patchy midsection...not this one...PJ Harvey takes you on a journey in all directions...it is never boring...the instrumentation is all fabulous, and Harvey is on top form vocally...this is an album to be enjoyed in your bedroom chilling out, studying, reading...it's good on a train, too...it's not a 'getting pumped up to go out' album...it is a subtle glory.

If you want to buy any album this year, make it this one...I cannot speak highly enough of it...it is possibly the best album I have heard in the last 5 years...I have only heard a few PJ Harvey albums in the past. I enjoyed White Chalk and Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, but I think this one tops the lot.

A must own.
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on 15 September 2011
I've never really listened to PJ, but after being subjected to all the hype surrounding this album, I decided to give it a listen. If I'm honest, I approached the album with a negative mindset, expecting to dislike it; dismissing it as a popular album given credence by the hype machine.

I am happy to admit I was totally wrong. So wrong in fact that I've listened to it daily over the past couple of weeks.

This is also the first album I can recall where I personally cannot identify any filler tracks. Each song is beautifully contained, often contrasting horrific dialog with sublime melodies. I love the production quality, being reminded more than a couple of times of Siouxsie.

All I can say is: what a fantastic album!
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