Thursday, April 17, 2008

BIlly Bragg CD review

(Originally appeared in IE Weekly)

Billy Bragg
Mr. Love & Justice

When Billy Bragg assembled backing band The Blokes close to a decade ago, his music suddenly took a loose, pals-playing-at-the-corner-bar turn. It was a far cry from the Brit’s captiving agit-pop of the ‘80s. But we all can’t stay angry young men forever. 2002’s "England, Half English" contained world beat and soul elements that sounded forced alongside a handful of political numbers. In the interim, Bragg wrote a book and drew attention for his complaints to MySpace about its proprietary rights clause.

Now he has returned with ninth studio effort "Mr. Love & Justice," a mature album which often recalls the folk rock of "Mermaid Avenue Vol. 1-2." Bloke Ian McLagan (ex-Faces) adds shimmering organ to the title track and Robert Wyatt of Soft Machine provides lovely backing vocals on the relationship minded “I Keep Faith.” Elsewhere, a rambunctious “I Almost Killed You” borders on skiffle, the humorous “Johnny Carcinogenic Show” gently takes on Big Tobacco (and reminds of Peter Gabriel’s similar lambasting of tabloid TV) and the haunting “O Freedom” (about rendition) recalls the Bragg of yore. Still, little here will have you singing in the shower. Go check out the Yep Roc Records reissues instead. (George A. Paul) Grade: C+

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