Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Billy Bragg....not done yet

I posted last week about a Billy Bragg song from a long time ago, here's my review of his new album (which also touches on "Ideology". What can I say, I only have one or two ideas at a time if that).

Billy Bragg
Tooth and Nail
Cookin' Vinyl

A year or so ago, during one of our many manufactured government “crises” – I think it was the first debt ceiling fight – I stumbled onto Billy Bragg’s “Ideology” and found in it an almost perfect encapsulation of everything that’s gone wrong with Western democracy. “When one voice rules the nation, just because they’re top of the pile,” Bragg sang, a good three decades before Occupy took over Zuccotti Park. “Our politicians all become careerists. / They must declare their interests / but not their company cars. / Is there more to a seat in parliament / than sitting on your arse?” he continued, a full generation ahead of Tea Party gridlock. “Ideology” comes from what is maybe Billy Bragg’s best album, Talking With the Taxman About Poetry, and if you are looking for a model on how to slide acerbic political commentary into proletariat love songs, it is not a bad place to start.

Of course, a lot of water has gone over the dam since then, and while still politically active, Billy Bragg is no longer manning the barricades. (He has been pretty vocal, in interviews, about the need for a younger generation of artists and musicians to engage with politics and social justice.) Tooth and Nail is Bragg’s first album in five years, and like Love & Justice, which preceded it, this grapples more with personal, emotional scenarios than world politics. The CD, recorded with Joe Henry in a sepia-toned palette of Americana tones, is more country and confessional than Bragg’s best rabble-rousers. It errs occasionally on the side of tastefulness and maturity – you can easily imagine it playing at Starbucks – but still contains a good bit of Bragg’s spunky, rebellious intelligence.


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