MP3: Billy Bragg - Talking With The Taxman About Poetry
Billy Bragg is one of those artists who's only really listenable in very short bursts. It's something to do with the incessant worthiness of his politics (which I actually agree with for the most part), a lack of much humour, along with the fact that he looks really annoying and hasn't got that great a voice. Other than that though, he's occasionally rather brilliant. If like me you were long put off his listening to his music due to his public persona, then you're missing quite a bit. My favourite album of his is probably 1986's Talking With The Taxman About Poetry, and although it's not perfect (some the overtly political stuff like Bragg's version of There Is A Power In The Union is rather awful), it's got a bunch of songs that really prove his worth as a songwriter. First up is Greetings To The New Brunette, a stunning collaboration with Johnny Marr and Kirsty MacColl about 1980s gender politics. It's a sort of less overtly sexist A Man Needs A Maid, with a confused Billy wishing for a more simple relationship. Very good stuff, and beautiful Marr guitar work. The next track I decided to put up is the single Levi Stubbs' Tears, which is probably Bragg's best single (other than perhaps A New England or Between The Wars). It's truly sad, and Bragg's vocals have hardly sounded better. He's never been a perfect singer but at points the emotional tone of his performance is truly great. The last thing i've put up is the album's closer, The Home Front. I think this one shows that at times Billy could match his politics and his music pretty well, as often I feel the music gets put on the backburner. This one just gets the feel of British life so right, and doesn't feel too out of date to me, other than the fact that England's population is probably far more apathetic about politics now than they were at the time Billy is describing. Anyway i've got to get back to writing some essays, so hope you like the songs.
Talking With The Taxman About Poetry was recently re-released along with five other early Bragg albums, and the re-release contains a bonus disc with 10 more tracks. It's available to buy quite cheaply at amazon.