114. Billy Bragg – “Back to Basics”

You may recall that I lamented that I didn’t own a digital copy of Billy Bragg’s first long-playing release (I only had it on cassette). I have managed to find a copy, so here’s the belated review.

This release was an aggregation of Bragg’s first two albums (one of which only went for about 16 mins, so I’m glad I was a little late on the uptake here).

billy Bragg album cover Back to BasicsThis is Billy in his rawest form. Most tracks are just him and his jagged guitar. This is where punk met folk, where Woodie Guthrie was given a Clash feel.

Billy’s voice is raw as hell. He rarely hits a note or if he does he certainly doesn’t hold it for long.

But his songwriting is at its very best. He gets the lovelorn/political mix spot on. On the latter side To Have and to Have Not, Island of No Return, Which Side Are You On? and Between the Wars are testaments to the big issues in Thatcher’s Britain (unemployment, The Falklands, the Labour alternative).

Most of the album is Bragg as loser in love and observer thereof. And he does it beautifully. A Lover Sings and Love Gets Dangerous are thrashy and sensitive at the same time. But his jewel is my favourite Bragg track: The Saturday Boy – perfection. Unrequited teenage love has never been more effectively captured.

File under: Basic is best

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