Taking in the harsh urban realities of Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington DC, it seems that PJ Harvey has had no shortage of inspiration to draw upon for latest LP The Hope Six Demolition Project.
While the entire album takes its name from a government plan which demolished public housing, latest single Community of Hope seems to have proven particularly controversial. Dropping the names of many Washington landmarks, Harvey channels the feelings of suffocation and simmering rage which arise from city’s poor living conditions. A dark take on even Bruce Springsteen‘s twisted sense of Americana, the singer refers to the local South Highway as a “pathway of death” while comparing a school to a “shithole.”
As reported by DCist, the single has elicited criticism from many local officials. Former Washington mayor Vincent Gray, again running for his former position, lashed out against the track’s lyrics. “I will not dignify this inane composition with a response,” he derided.
Grey’s campaign manager, Chuck Thies reflected Gray’s views. “PJ Harvey is to music what Piers Morgan is to cable news,” he declared. Oblivious to any deeper symbolism behind the lyrics, candidate Grant Thompson commented on Harvey’s lyrical line “There’s only on sit down restaurant in Ward 7.” “One of the promises I’m making is that we’re going to bring more restaurants to Ward 7,” Thompson commented.
Washington not-for-profit Community of Hope also took aim at the singer. In an open letter to Harvey the healthcare, housing, and education organisation condemned the track for simplifying the poverty of D.C. residents. It’s surprising to see such a strong literal interpretation placed on the track’s lyrics given the social and economic inequality which permeates the life of many Americans. In 2014 the US Census Bureau is estimated that 14.5 percent of all Americans had lived below the poverty line the previous year.
The film itself depicts a succession of local imagery captured by Harvey’s travel companion and photojournalist Seamus Murphy. Contrasting with the harsh lyrical content, the clip’s imagery showcases some more uplifting scenes. Footage of local singers performing the track in their home and at a DC church places a moving emphasis behind chorus lyrics “They’re gonna put a Wallmart here.”
The Hope Six Demolition Project, released April 15th on Island Records.