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PJ Harvey Has More Songs About DC for Everyone to Freak Out About

Harvey. Photograph copyright Maria Mochnacz.

PJ Harvey’s new album, The Hope Six Demolition Project, was released Friday. It includes more songs about DC, one of which has already caused a surprising amount of controversy.

Among the songs are “River Anacostia,” “Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln,” and “Medicinals.” None are as blunt as “The Community of Hope,” which Harvey released in March. That tune, which called Benning Road a “pathway of death” and talked about the area being “just drug town, just zombies,” ticked off stakeholders in the District and made Harvey the least likely person to roil local politics since Sulaimon Brown. Only “Medicinals” holds much promise as fuel for outrage, with these lyrics:

“But do you see that woman, sitting in the wheelchair? / With her Redskins cap on backwards / What’s that she’s singing? / As from inside a paper wrapper / She sips from a bottle / A new painkiller / For the native people.”

Here’s the album:

And here are the lyrics to those songs, ripped from a variety of possibly reliable corners of the Internet:

“River Anacostia”

Oh my Anacostia
Do not sigh, do not weep
Beneath the overpass
Your Savior’s waiting patiently
Walking on the water
Flowing with the poisons
From the naval yards
He’s talking to the fallen reedsSaying “What will become of us?”
What will become of us?
Oh…Wade in the water
God’s gonna trouble the waterA small red sun makes way for night
Trails away like a tail light
Is that Jesus on the water
Talking to the fallen trees?Saying “What will become of us?”
What will become of us?
Oh…

Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water
Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water
Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water

What will become if God’s gonna trouble waters?
What will become if God’s gonna trouble waters?
What will become if God’s gonna trouble waters?
Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water
Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water
Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water

Wade in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water

“Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln”

All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln

At the refreshments stand
A boy throws out his hands
As if to feed the starlings
But really he throws nothing
It’s just to watch them jump
See the people coming
They’re moving over the grass
To squeeze in two plastic chairs

All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln

Three notes, a bugle call
A black man in overalls
Arrives to empty the trash
Hauls it to a metal hatch
A doorway opens up
To the underworld
The boy throws empty hands
And the starlings jump

All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln

“Medicinals”

I was walking through the National Mall
Thinking about medicinals, how they used to grow there

When the ground was a marshland
Undisturbed by human hands, and I heard their voices:

Sumac said “We’re always here”
Witch Hazel – “We’re always here”
Sassafras – “We’re always here”
Bluestem grasses always here

I looked about, and what I see?
Medicinals grow around me, rising from the gravel
Sumac and the Witch Hazel
Come to soothe our primal sores, come to soothe our troubles

Sumac said “We’re always here”
Witch Hazel – “We’re always here”
Sassafras – “We’re always here”
Bluestem grass is always here

But do you see that woman, sitting in the wheelchair?
With her Redskins cap on backwards
What’s that she’s singing?
As from inside a paper wrapper
She sips from a bottle
A new painkiller
For the native people

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Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.