The Hope Six Demolition Project
April 15 2016 (Island)
Words: Alison Mack
Polly Jean Harvey returns with her ninth album, assuredly marking her iconic status territory. For this latest work - recorded behind one-way glass during an exhibition at Somerset House and four years in the making - she channels her political and social leanings and awareness gleaned through field trip journeys to Afghanistan, Kosovo and Washington DC with photographer/film-maker Seamus Murphy, to understand the effects of war and poverty, into 11 challenging and provoking tracks.
In contrast to 'Let England Shake', 'The Hope Six Demolition Project' is a personal, art-rock work that takes big guitar hooks, punchy choruses and shifts them through bluesy-folk tracks with some garage sax riffs on both 'ministries':'The Ministry Of Defence' (joined here by Linton Kwesi Johnson) and 'The Ministry Of Social Affairs'. Washington DC.'s former mayor Vincent Gray' was given to remark, "I will not dignify this inane composition with a response" on the subject of rousing opener 'The Community of Hope': a social commentary inspired by the Ward 7 of the city that has seen a downturn, socially and economically resulting in a number of failed redevelopment projects and unrest.
Elsewhere, 'Dollar, Dollar' comes with the image of a not begging for money, and provides one of the record's highlights, and although the upbeat 'The Wheel' revolves on massed handclaps and sax interludes, Harvey uses as its poignant and haunting motif the children who died during the Kosovo War: "Now you see them, now you don’t."
Not an easy album then, as is apparent, and its visceral content may leave those seeking lighter entertainment to go elsewhere, but then again PJ Harvey has never paraded herself as an artist seeking chart success, but one more concerned with piercing shells of perception.