PJ Harvey’s ninth studio album, “The Hope Six Demolition Project” (Vagrant), is a massive undertaking — a chronicling of her four years of journeys to Afghanistan, Kosovo and Washington, D.C., set to music and recorded live in front of an audience at London’s Somerset House.
Given those parameters, the album is an impressive success. Simply setting her brand of insightful journalism to music is a triumph, especially when she manages to match the music to the hard-hitting lyrics.
She builds “The Community of Hope” into a catchy, guitar-driven rocker as she describes the problems of a Washington neighborhood (“OK, now this is just drug town, just zombies”) before reporting the potential solution in joyous harmonies: “They’re gonna put a Walmart here.”
The problem, though, is that Harvey often tries to stay dispassionate in dire circumstances, which is important for journalists, but not necessarily for artists. When she finally melts in the stunning “Dollar, Dollar,” about a boy begging her for money in Afghanistan, the emotions that she unleashes in the achingly beautiful testament poignantly show what the project was missing.