PJ Harvey's new video, co-created with her longtime collaborator, the Irish cinematographer Seamus Murphy, juxtaposes images of men, women and children struggling amidst the sprawling decay and devastation left after the war in the late 1990s. Shot in 2011 and 2015 in Kosovo and London, the video cuts together scenes that put both the wreckage of time and the will to survive on display: A shot of an outdoor folk dance cuts to images riot police; children skip in a massive field of garbage; beautiful mountains are replaced by a rusting shack. The song itself blurs its focus, as Harvey weaves tales of woe from Vietnam to Syria over driving, distorted guitar and an eerie, call and response chorus.
"The Wheel" gets its name from a recurring image in the video: a rundown fairground wheel with chairs hanging from rusty chains.
"I can tell you it's date — 4th August 2011 — from the piece of footage I made as we walked up the street to our parked car near the train station" Murphy says in a prepared statement. "It was a passing observation of a commonplace image, one of many that day. Was that sight alone the inspiration for the song? Without being told the stories of people who had suffered during the war, without visiting villages abandoned through ethnic cleansing and cycles of vengeance, without experiencing the different perceptions of people with shared histories, could the song have been written?"
"The Wheel" is the leadoff track from Harvey's upcoming, ninth full-length, The Hope Six Demolition Project, due out April 15 on Vagrant.