Daily Archives: April 6, 2009

87. Billy Bragg – “The Peel Sessions”

Let’s travel back in time a few years, to various live sessions Bragg recorded at the BBC.  These sessions were aggregated on this damn fine CD.

billy-bragg-album-cover-peel-sessionThis is Billy in all his singer-songwriter glory.  He cherry-picks many of his better songs from his earlier works (although not the best – The Saturday Boy), and plays them in the fashion that best suits them – solo and raw.

There is a hell of a lot more killer than filler here.   In fact, I’m not sure I’d condemn many at all.  He offers a pretty nifty Smiths cover (Jeane) and also a John Cale number (Fear is a Man’s Best Friend).  He does such a good job on those two that I hadn’t picked up they were covers until websearching them today.

The vibe on the labum isn’t completely consistent as it chronicles three distinct sessions.  The middle one (stuff from Workers Playtime) comes across as a little too slick.  The other are more rough and ready, and thus more vibrant and engaging.

This CD is worth owning for the rare  A13 Trunk Road to the Sea -his UK version of Route 66.  Oh, and it features his very righteous Between the Wars. Both songs have vids worth seeing:

File under: Very a-peeling (sorry, couldn’t resist)

86. Billy Bragg – “Don’t Try This at Home”

I saw Billy tour this album. I saw him play two nights in a row in Melbourne. One show was a sit-down affair (t The Palais) with an emphasis on his earlier work, while the second show featured a more raucous full-band, rocking performance in a beerhall type venue (The Palace).

billy-bragg-album-cover-dont-try-this-at-homeI have strong memories of enjoying both shows. Yet this album does very little for me now. In fact, it annoys me more than anything else. Billy has well and truly abandoned the key elements that made him fun to listen to.

Gone is the folk-punky guitar and vocals combo in favour of a full band, a pretty overblown MOR rock sound and genuine attempts to sing.  The cheeky, strident and winsome songwriting loses out to much more predictable and dull numbers. The ‘progression’ is disappointing.  Instead of angry and heartbroken, Bragg just comes across as self-indulgent and tired.  And more than his earlier work, this album has dated terribly.

It is not all awful.  The singles (Sexuality, North Sea Bubble) are passable, while Wish You Were Her is quite touching.

Thinking back to those gigs, perhaps I just enjoyed the older tunes?

File Under: Disappointing