Track Review – The Wheel / PJ Harvey

Everyone liked Let England Shake, PJ Harvey’s last album, but the first taste of her new album is somewhat more traditional to her older style instrumentally, whilst the lyrical topics are still very much in keeping with the war imagery she’s been working with. The style of music Polly Jean Harvey is playing with on this new track is somewhere in the middle of Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and To Bring You My Love, mostly for the hip-shaking value that the first wordless minute brings. The song is driven by the same propulsion that tracks like ‘This Is Love’ or the snake-like drums of ‘Working For The Man’. However, PJ Harvey has never established her footing as quickly as she does on ‘The Wheel’, throwing in a guitar solo from the beginning, which wriggles underneath for the minute with a the drumbeat and handclaps making the track sound more like an aggressive irish jig than anything from Let England Shake.

Children are all over the lyrics of ‘The Wheel’, hiding behind vehicles, flying out and disappearing. As Harvey repeats in the outro, ‘And watch them fade out’, you can’t help thinking of the shadows of the dead left on the wall after the nuclear bomb hit Hiroshima and Harvey wanting to preserve the memories of the innocent people who have died as a result of someone else’s conflict, which wouldn’t be a surprising reference point with Harvey still interested in writing about war, and it’s a good job someone who is a big name is talking about war, because who else is really? The track’s instrumental can seem repetitive, especially by the time the minute intro has ended and the song being nearly six minutes long, plus the outro ends so jarringly you’d half expect the track to lead into another on the album. But another PJ Harvey album is always something to celebrate, especially if she’s planning on dragging the narrative into the 21st century and out of the WWI story of Let England Shake. 

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