In comparison to PJ Harvey’s last single, ‘The Wheel’, ‘The Community of Hope’ strides out of the gate with more confidence, less messing around, straight in. It’s arguably much better, with less squealing guitars and instead a driving drumbeat with the guitar taking a backseat and more orchestration working its way in. The lyrics, rooted in the US, have more in common with Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West than the hyper-political Let England Shake, with Harvey singing ‘Now this is just drug town, just zombies, but that’s just life’ as she criticises pretty much everything wrong with America: the fast-paced life, dead drug towns, the government, run-down schools sitting next to spotless Wal-Marts. She’s translated her cynical view of WW1 to America well, and while it might seem heavy-handed, PJ Harvey has rarely dealt in anything that isn’t upfront, often because it can be more uncomfortable than disguising it in a metaphor.
Instrumentally, the sound of The Hope Six Demolition Project is now forming more clearly – a departure from Let England Shake‘s experimental streak and more like her Mercury-winning Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, combining mid-paced rock with extra orchestration from the brass section. It’s probably going to be a good album for any PJ Harvey fans who want a ‘rock’ album, but probably not the scratchy punk of Rid Of Me. The horns work well, as do the returning backing vocals which add a choir-like protest-song-likeness to lines like ‘They’re gonna put a Walmart here’, making even that line sound ominous.