Street Sounds: Songs of war and hope

PJ Harvey delivers an inspired and futuristic rock/folk travelogue on her ninth album, The Hope Six Demolition Project.

English alt-rock singer/songwriter/guitarist, PJ Harvey delivers an inspired and futuristic rock/folk travelogue on her ninth album, The Hope Six Demolition Project.

Harvey is a charismatic presence and her record draws on her travels in Kosovo and Afghanistan. She moves her impressions into music with the help of long-time band mate/producer, John Parish and co-producer Flood.

The Hope Six Demolition Project is a serious wartime album with teeth, something that Neil Young would undertake. Harvey is equally up to the task and then some.

For some, she embodies the untethered creative eccentricity of British artistry, but she’s also sharp, cool and an expressive singer. She taps into English folk, blues atmosphere and jagged punk sounds reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Harvey’s impressions run deep and the record is a travelogue of places and people in war-torn regions. The music is chilling (A Line in the Sand, Chain of Keys) and dark (Medicinals) but there’s a visceral bite that keeps the sound rooted, whatever the themes are.

River Anacostia is a haunting track where Harvey takes her Brit-folk and alternative rock background and switches the context to conjure an electronic gospel drone. The album has many surprising artistic moments.

The Hope Six Demolition Project has a flipside, a topical style of folk based on reportage and information, rather than protest. The songs are also hopeful and grand.

Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln has the ring of inspiration and The Wheel is a flat-out anthem. The latter track references missing children in a stand-up-and-take-notice chorus that gives chills. It’s also a kick-butt acoustic-rock song.

The album is experimental and informative and gets a committed groove going underneath. It’s a one-off from one of England’s most provocative singers.

Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who writes about new releases in his column, Street Sounds, every Friday in The Morning Star.