Democracy Dies in Darkness

Going Out Guide

PJ Harvey's new single, 'The Community of Hope,' focuses on D.C.

By Emily Codik

March 11, 2016 at 12:51 PM

PJ Harvey's latest single, "The Community of Hope," delves into issues specific to the area east of the Anacostia River. (Maria Mochnacz/Nasty Little Man.)

Remember when English rocker PJ Harvey was in town a few years ago and got caught hanging around the Gallery Place Metro stop like a regular, non-famous person? It turns out Harvey was in town for work related to "The Hope Six Demolition Project," her new album set to be released April 15, which features the new single, "The Community of Hope."

Over the course of four years, Harvey traveled across the globe, from Aghanistan to Kosovo to Washington, later drawing on those trips as inspiration for the album. "The Community of Hope" is one song about her time in D.C.

In the track, Harvey describes what sounds like a tour of the city, referencing South Capitol Street, which she calls "the highway to death and destruction," and an unnamed school that "just looks like a s--- hole." But she also tackles specific locations. She eschews booming neighborhoods such as Shaw and the 14th Street Corridor and instead references the disappointing or failed developments that have recently affected the area east of the Anacostia River. Here are a few of those lyrics, explained.

Dining in Ward 7

Lyrics: "And here's the one sit-down restaurant in Ward 7"

Years ago, when Michael Landrum announced he was opening a steak joint in Ward 7, it was hailed as a sign of revitalization for an area that, for nearly a decade, only had one sit-down restaurant. Ray's the Steaks at East River debuted in 2010 with a heavy burden -- not to mention, some mixed emotions -- and closed two years later. So which restaurant is Harvey singing about now? A few spots have opened there since Ray's closed, but chances are she's referring to the long-standing Denny's on Benning Road NE, which has been around since 1999.

The Department of Homeland Security's headquarters

Lyrics: "Here's the old mental institution / now the Homeland Security base"

Harvey's referencing St. Elizabeths Hospital, the former psychiatric facility whose grounds are slated to become headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security. The plan, more than a decade behind schedule and more than $1.5 billion over budget, has encountered significant delays and may never be completed. Meanwhile, the Wizards have hatched plans to build a 5,000-seat venue and practice complex on the site.

The Walmart stores that never happened

Lyrics: "They're gonna put a Walmart here"

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said she was "blood mad" in January when Walmart backed out of a deal to build two stores east of the Anacostia River. The retailer had been making a push to inject itself into urban sites, but New York and Boston squashed those desires. In D.C., Walmart worked out a deal: The retailer could open stores practically wherever it wanted in the city -- so long as it opened two locations in poor neighborhoods that needed fresh produce and groceries. That didn't go as planned.


Emily Codik is an assistant editor for Weekend and the Going Out Guide.

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