British singer-songwriter PJ Harvey is continuing to build excitement—and a little bit of controversy—for The Hope Six Demolition Project, her first studio album in half a decade. Last month, she debuted the video for “The Wheel,” drawing on the stories and imagery of the people of Kosovo; now, she’s building parallels between that ravaged territory and one that probably hits a little closer to home for most of our readers: Washington, D.C.
The title of “The Community Of Hope” refers to the U.S. Department Of Housing And Urban Development’s HOPE VI effort, which seeks to revitalize troubled public housing projects like those surrounding the nation’s capitol in D.C. Harvey uses an uplifting melody but unflattering words—mostly lifted directly from her guide on the tour, Washington Post writer Paul Schwartzman, who wrote a fascinating description of his day unknowingly ferrying a rock star around in his car—to paint a picture of a community in need.
Some members of the community aren’t enjoying the attention, though, possibly because the idea of people basically praying for big box retailers to come save them—as in the video’s climax, which features a church choir singing, “They’re gonna put a Walmart here” on repeat—is somewhat distasteful. “Have you not trashed the place that, for better or worse, is home to people who are working to make it better, who take pride in their accomplishments?” asks a letter from community leaders, addressing Harvey’s song. (It strikes us that Harvey, and collaborator Seamus Murphy, a war photographer, are trying to raise awareness of the ubiquity of places where people struggle in need, rather than trashing them for existing, but, then, Harvey hasn’t written a song about us.)
The Hope Six Demolition Project is set to come out on April 15; according to Schwartzman, the Walmart in question is never actually getting built.