Album – Don't Try This At Home
Artist – Billy Bragg
Key Players - Billy Bragg – guitars,
Produced By – Grant Showbiz
Release Date – September 17, 1991
Overview - This is the fourth full
length record by UK “urban folk” artist Billy Bragg. Bragg who
is known to combine folk and punk rock to create “protest” songs.
All this is a bit of pigeonhole for a diverse artist. In the late
1970s Bragg was in a punk band and playing sparse gigs. He'd join
the Army but would leave after three months. He started to “busk”
around London and recorded a demo tape and by 1984 and official ep
was released. He'd release a few more records and by 1996 he had
taken some time off to raise his son. Around this time Bragg got
together with Wilco to do what would end up being two releases of
songs based off incomplete Woodie Guthrie songs. He released a new
record in March of 2013.
FDF Comments (aka the songs)
sprawling 16 song albums that blends some of the most rowdy political
rock you've come across. Opening with "Accident Waiting to Happen"
the choppy guitars and Braggs long drawl are immediate stand outs.
People often say “how come UK bands never sing the way they sound
when speaking?? Well Bragg does. It adds to the charm, and the
guitarist pushes the speed and vocal delivery. Its a great opener to
this record. It mellows some with “Moving the Goalposts” a
calmer, acoustic picked track with some strings to fill out the
sound. Peter Buck
plays a fine mandolin on “Everywhere”
and it is a focal point for sure. Bragg seems to lay out the records
well with burners, then mid-tempo “thinking man” songs. Johnny Marr
plays the electric guitar on “Cindy of a Thousand Lives”
while Kristy MacColl offers backing vocals. The song has a nice
extended solo and the strings are really solid to fill it out. I've
noted he's done that before, but when you are know for acoustic
guitar political songs, its a noticeable trait. We get an REM tandem
on "You Woke Up My Neighbourhood"
Buck returns on the mandolin and Michael Stipe sings backing vocals.
This was a very early favorite on the record when I first heard it
and it continues to cause a massive grin. The chorus alone is worth
it. “Trust” and “God's Footballer” are on that mellower
side. “Trust” has clarinet and harmonica, while the latter finds
pluck stringed instruments and keyboards. “The Few” has Bragg in fine form
and once again pulling in various instruments with trombone that is
pushed right to the front. If there is one song that would be know
by Billy Bragg by the masses it would have to be "Sexuality"
rollicking fun run that has the return of Marr and MacColl in their
roles and one of the most infectious songs, and song titles of the
early 1990s. Soak it in all over dear readers. Another great track
that may have been missed is "Mother of the Bride"
. The song is
about a man that sees the woman he loves marrying someone else, and
his mother realizing he would be better suited than the man she is
marrying. Its an acoustic guitar, foot stomping of a song. The line
about him seeing the couple after being married..with “he looked
boring and she looked bored” are one of the most brilliant lines
ever sung in a break up song...even though its not a break up song.
After the last two more rocking songs we pull back some with the
piano led “Tank Park Salute” which also is the style of
“Dolphins” which follows. "North Sea Bubble"
is one of my
favorite songs on the record, probably top 2 or 3. The urgency, the
hooks, the whole feel just grabs me to this day. Over and over
again. On come the strings and we calm it down again for “Rumors
of War”. The music might be quiet/calm but the lyrics are heavy
and the strings give it that chilling feel. “Wish you Were Her”
has Bragg surrounded by bass, guitar and four backing vocalists for
the fullest, largest group of performers on a single album track.
The album closes with “Body of Water” a track that opens with the
chorus so you know Bragg means business and goes out on a high note
with an up tempo run of acoustic and electric guitar blasts.
Where are they now? - As noted Billy
continues to write and perform. His latest album “Mr Love &
Justice” was released on March 18, 2013. He is married, has a son,
loves football and is still politically active.
FDF Overall Take - I tend to like the
more uptempo stuff from Bragg, and this record has a fair number of
songs. They are all well crafted and are fun to listen to, and you
might even learn something. I don't know a ton about his catalog but
if you were to say you have this record in your collection I'd
totally get it.
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