Why A Political Return From PJ Harvey Is More Important Than Ever

Yesterday evening (January 21), PJ Harvey announced her ninth album ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ and premiered its first single ‘The Wheel’ on Steve Lamacq’s 6Music show.

There’s not a lot of info about the record out there just yet, but we do know it’s inspired by and about her trips to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington DC. Therefore, it’s pretty safe to presume that it’ll pick up where ‘Let England Shake’ left off and bring us more political songs from the Devon musician.

‘The Wheel’ is propelled by driving guitars and urgent drums while Harvey describes a “blind man sings in Arabic”. The chorus, meanwhile, has her crying “Hey little children, don’t disappear” and “Now you see them, now you don’t/The children vanished on a vehicle” almost certainly an observation on The Middle East’s current migrant crisis.

The rest of the album is likely to be focused around similar issues. The record’s title is taken from the Hope VI project in America, whereby the worst public housing in the country was meant to revitalised. The tracklist features songs called ‘The Ministry Of Defence’ and ‘The Ministry Of Social Affairs’, and ‘The Community Of Hope’, a clip of which you can hear in a new album trailer, talks of “drugtown and zombies” in a poor part of town.

It’s rare for Harvey to move on to a new record with songs that sound like they could fit seamlessly into what’s come immediately before, but, perhaps now more than ever, it’s important that she adopts that approach. More and more bands are sharing their political views via social media, but there’s still few putting politics into their art. Harvey doing that isn’t going to change the world the instant the record drops on April 15, but by creating such stark and poignant depictions of war and poverty as were found on ‘Let England Shake’, she should make people think twice about the world around them and hopefully inspire an urge to try and change things.

From the Paris terrorist attacks to Britain’s subsequent airstrikes on Syria, the Tories slowly and slyly selling off the NHS to asylum seekers claiming to be identifiable by red doors on their houses, the Calais jungle to Donald Trump becoming a serious contender for president, the world right now is a terrifying place and the future looks horribly bleak. We need our musicians to be stepping up and using their platforms to say something, to show us into other people’s worlds even if what we see is uncomfortable or we’d rather turn a blind eye to. One album by one artist isn’t going to make everything right, but if Harvey can inspire her fans to protest our government and others wrongdoings, and inspire other musicians to follow her lead then it’s a start in making our world a little bit better for everyone.

Listen to ‘The Wheel’ in full on Steve Lamacq’s 6music show at 55mins. ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ is released on April 15 via Island.