Daily Archives: April 3, 2009

84. Billy Bragg – “Workers Playtime”

I’m pretty sure this was the first Bragg album I purchased. I’ve thus always had a softer spot for it than perhaps it warrants.

billy-bragg-album-cover-workers-playtimeIt contains some of his strongest tracks, mostly of the lovelorn oeuvre.  Valentine’s Day is Over is biting and devastating. Must I Paint you Picture revisits an unrequited love of sorts. And The Short Answer sees Billy’s tongue firmly in his cheek, and contains one of the best opening couplets ever (“Between Marx and Marzipan in the dictionary there was Mary…”).

I could go on and on discussing the thrust of each tune, but ultimately almost all are about love gone a bit sour (other than the political Rotting on Remand).  The CD almost falls into the concept album box. Bragg does a grand job of presenting each tune as different take on the overarching theme.  It does, of course, beg the question why the album secured such a non-indicative title (just as the moniker also begs the “no apostrophe?” question). Perhaps the closing Waiting for Great Leap Forward answers this, as he (perhaps) parodies his working class ranting.

This is a very strong album.  Its biggest weakness lies in the continuing diminution of the thrashy folk guitar.

File under: A recess to rejoice upon

83. Billy Bragg – “Talking with the Taxman about Poetry”

Starting the long sequence of Bragg-related reviews revealed something quite stunning (well to me anyway). I don’t own his Back to Basics album in any format that I can currently listen to (I only have it on a cassette that used to get a lot of airplay). This will prompt a purchase in the coming days I suspect.

talking_with_the_taxman_about_poetry-billy-bragg-album-coverSo, we’ll kick off with his second album. This was his first with any substantial accompaniment beyond guitar. It is also probably his most representative release. It is chock full of classics.

The Bragg modus operandi is to deliver on one of two possible fronts. Either the song is a heartfelt examination of love gone wrong. Alternatively, he dons the cape of social crusader, representing the great unwashed but noble working classes.

The balance on this album is pretty even on each front. The music is more varied with a bit of piano and strings, and Billy sings more than shouts.

As I said, this is laden with some of his best tunes. Levi Stubbs’ Tears showcases a miserable marriage perfectly. Greetings To The New Brunette contains some great lines. There Is Power In A Union is rousing and Ideology biting.

The album trails off considerably in the latter half, this reducing its wow factor. Nevertheless, this is a strong testament to Bragg’s capacity to pen a great tune. I doubt there are too many more albums in my collection from which I could recall more lyrics.

File under: Righteous and rollicking