This is an mp3 blog attempting to document the gross amount of music I listen to. About once a day, I'll post something I like. If you're a copyright holder on anything I host, get in touch, and we'll settle things in a steel cage instead of a courtroom.

Friday, February 16, 2007

"The revolution is just a t-shirt away" - Billy Bragg

I've become hooked on the insanely good British sitcom Spaced, featuring a pre-Shaun of the Dead Simon Pegg as a stoned, would-be comic artist who lives with an equally-stoned would-be writer under the pretense that they are a professional couple. It's screamingly funny, and it's holding me over 'til Hot Fuzz comes out.

That said, since it IS a British show about young people, the soundtrack features annoying house music making clicks and beeps and skronks over every quiet part. I found myself wishing they'd used some vintage Billy Bragg tracks.

You know when it's okay to admit you rule? When Johnny fuckin' Marr asks to play on your record. Bragg got to that point of radness pretty quickly, too, going from busking to having the greatest British guitar player ever (yeah, I said it) begging for a guest spot in under two years. Not bad for a dude with an electric guitar and no backing band.

After he decided school sucked, he instead spent his days playing music, clocking time with the punk band Riff Raff. The band didn't go anywhere, and like all disillusioned punk rockers, he joined the Army (though he bought his way out of it pretty damn quickly). He began gigging around shithole London clubs, often as a last-minute replacement act , 'cause a lone dude can be mobilized for a last minute show easier than a full band.

in 1984, he put out the Life's a Riot With Spy Vs. Spy mini-LP, and it perfectly crystallized his sound. (Imagine if Woody Guthrie's favorite band was the Clash, to use a well-worn cliche.) It also showcased his split songwriting personality, turning out heartfelt songs of love and loss alongside strident agitprop. To be honest, kids, I've always preferred his songs of the heart more than his songs of the picket line. I guess political songs don't stay as evergreen as the eternal human struggle with love and affection. Like, the Dead Kennedys are one of the single greatest bands ever to play rock music, but "Riot" won't ever worm and wiggle its way into my heart like, for example, Jawbreaker's "Jet Black."

Anyway, after bringing John Peel takeout live on BBC Radio 1, Peel played a track, and Bragg started to get a bit of notice. That same year, he released Brewing Up, which was more of the same, but better.

Signing to Elektra for his third (and his best) record, Talking With the Taxman About Poetry, Bragg began expanding his sound a bit, adding the occasional additional instrument or subtle backing vocal. It was 1988's Workers Playtime where things started to go a bit downhill. Though he was still writing killer tunes, he now had a full backing band, and some of what made him unique and interesting started to dissipate. He also had a kid, which, as we all know, slays rock musicians and stand-up comedians.

Still, the worst Billy Bragg album is better than, say, the best grime album, and the two Mermaid Avenue records were pretty good, even if the Wilco halves of both discs tended to put me to sleep.

To Have and Have Not -

Island of No Return -

St. Swithen's Day -

Greetings to the New Brunette -

The Marriage -

Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards -

Accident Waiting to Happen (LP version) -


Post a Comment

<< Home