Music

PJ Harvey - "The Community of Hope" (Singles Going Steady)

Photo: Maria Mochnacz

The killer melody, punkish urgency, and lyrical relevance make this the track to hear and video to see for 2016.

Chris Ingalls: From a purely musical standpoint, it's a terrific track, an urgent power-pop stomper. If it were just a plain old love song, it would be great. But PJ Harvey has a far bigger agenda here, and it adds an incredible new dimension to the whole thing. The new single from Harvey's The Hope Six Demolition Project, the song laments the plans for Washington DC's Ward 7 that will turn revitalization into gentrification. The video is sad, beautiful and poignant, all shots of the neighborhood and its (largely African-American) community. The video comes to a standstill when it shows a gospel choir learning the song, including the all-too-real refrain "They're gonna put a WalMart here," and are then shown signing it in their Ward 7 church. Musically -- and perhaps lyrically -- it has an anthemic, almost Springsteen quality (knowing the Boss' recent penchant for random covers, I wouldn't be surprised to hear him try this out the next time the E Street Band hits our nation's capital). The killer melody, punkish urgency, and lyrical relevance make this the track to hear and video to see for 2016. [10/10]

Chad Miller: If anything, the recent critics of Harvey's depiction of Hope's citizens might have bolstered her work, adding intrigue to a song that might have seemed unremarkable at first. Harvey may not come out and say exactly what she feels about Hope, but the contrasting images of she paints of a community so close to Washington D.C. so exquisitely shows how people are treated in comparison to others, instead of showing differences in how they act. It's a refreshing take. [7/10]

Emmanuel Elone: Harvey's pretty blunt on this song. All of the lyrics are about an actual community called Hope, and all of the horrible things happening to it. She mentions new apartment buildings, the destruction of local business, and even calls out the Wal-Mart that's being built there. However, like Neil Young's latest album, PJ Harvey is full of good intentions in her songs but the music just ins't that appealing. The rock instrumentation behind her is forgettable, and the specificity of her lyrics prevent this song from having any sort of long-term appeal. I applaud her message and passion, but that's all she really has to offer on this latest single of hers. [5/10]

Pryor Stroud: PJ Harvey's latest single "The Community of Hope" is an activist bash-rock drama that rebukes D.C.'s transparent attempts at urban gentrification and socioeconomic displacement. The track has already attracted controversy and, rightly so, because it courts it outright. Playing one of indie-rocks most threadbare cards, a bright melody that obscures a condemnatory and/or dysthymic lyric, the track is an unapologetic exercise in tongue-in-cheek provocation; its chugging, metallic guitar could be imagined as the slow but resolute disassembly of the construction equipment used to build up the community that gives the song its name. The final, gospel-inflected chant -- "They're gonna put a Walmart here" -- is an urban-center reconception of Joni Mitchell's famous observation:"They paved paradise / And put up a parking lot." However, here, there was never a paradise, only a poverty-stricken housing project that was in desperate need of some sort of change -- any change, that is, besides the one that left it as rubble fading from memory. [7/10]

Morgan Y. Evans: Any disgruntled types who compare PJ Harvey unfavorably to Piers Morgan (as critics of this song have) have likely not heard PJ and John Parish's "Black Hearted Love". Even if PJ Harvey was just known for Peaky Blinders she could still pretty much do whatever the heck she wants. But she also arguably has the most consistently solid straight string of albums of almost any performer since her initial entrance to the scene. The Hope Six Demolition Project record should be read as an appeal to compassion, even if events and details have shifted since the inception of the album.

People are bickering about the number of restaurants there instead of thinking about how they mutually could help one another improve that community through awareness. Kind of like how all the stories about Kurt Cobain these days seem to be more about melodrama and face saving image or murder conspiracies rather than focused on the scene and community building message that inspired Nirvana in the first place, a little band PJ was asked to front by Dave Grohl. PJ is always great with regional touches as well and this song feels American like country boogie, E Street Band justice and the Blues. Peace not war. [7/10]

PJ Harvey's new album, The Hope Six Demolition Project, releases April 15th.

SCORE: 7.20

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