liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Music from the Cube: What Am I Listening To Today?

Ahhhh, you know it's that kind of week when you put Billy Bragg and the Blokes on constant play and it's only Tuesday.

Since, y'know, I'm doing that as we speak, I might as pull you lot in as well.

Billy Bragg
[Support the Artist, Artist's Official Web Site]

Ahhhh, the Bordersverse! You were a fun place to work, but you turned me socialist-at-heart very quickly (for the U.S., that is; I'm very certain that in Europe I'd be considered frightfully conservative). Minimum wage, lack of health insurance (which in the U.S. translates to lack of health care), and overall fear of homelessness definitely brings on the, "Safety net my ass" aspect of life in the ol' U.S. (although to be fair, I was saying that before I found myself struggling financially for three damn years).

And I wasn't alone. All I had to do was look around at my fellow Bordersverse employees and see the same thing. All of them had advanced degrees, all of them had been tossed out of their jobs by the economy, and all of them were earning minimum wage. How had is the pay? Let me put it this way: in my current job, I earn almost twice what a Borders Books and Music store manager (a manager with experience no less!) earns.

So, what's a few under-employed braniacs gonna do for tunes? Listen to Billy Bragg, of course!

Why Billy Bragg?

Because even though we knew there was no revolution coming to save us any time soon, it was nice to dream.

Bragg generally falls under punk, although in reading up on his background, Bragg more accurately falls under "folk." Certainly the lyrics and sensibilities are very much rooted in modern folk tradition, even if the business is electrified. Bragg primarily concerns himself with politics (specifically, British politics), with a few songs set aside as love songs. The lyrics are (usually) clever, and the melodies are (usually) very strong. There are times, however, when Bragg's accent makes these ol' Merkin ears go, "What the hell did he say, again?"

Back to Basics Rating=$$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought for 40% off during my Bordersverse daze.

This compilation CD covers material from Bragg's first three records, a Riot With Spy vs Spy, Brewing Up With Billy Bragg, and Between the Wars. This is basic Bragg at his finest: one electric guitar, one very fast recording session, and one man with a thick accent. Although the production is bare bones and Bragg's accent almost overwhelming, this CD is fantastic, everything from tracks that were included in this compilation, to the lyrics, to the mix of subject matter...there's nothing to dislike about this CD and everything to love.

All of the sample downloads for this CD are simply lovely and worth your time. If you only have to choose one, however, choose 'A New England,' because — damn — there's just something about the song that breaks my freakin' heard every. single. time.

Sample Song Downloads: A New England, St. Swithin's Day, The World Turned Upside Down, Which Side Are You On?

England, Half English Rating=$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought for 40% off during my Bordersverse daze.

Maddening. Uneven. Some days I love this CD, some days I hate this CD. Mostly, I think this CD has four too many songs on it. Considering that there are only 12 tracks England, Half English, that pretty much sums up the problem right here. This is not Billy Bragg at his best, which is a shame because this 2002 CD is the last studio album he put out. The lyrics on some of the political songs is missing some of the warmth that can be found in his earlier work (I'm looking specifically at you 'NPWA') and some of the love songs are just boring. However, there are some clever songs in the mix which do make up for some really boring bits.

Overall, a nice CD to have if you're a Bragg fan. Otherwise, give this one a miss and stick with Back to Basics.

The four sample I'm offering below are definitely four songs which make up for the "problem songs" on the CD. All of them are certainly worth the download, if only for their strong lyrics and and the tight musical back-up from "the Blokes" The track that tickles me the most is "St. Monday" because it's so hilariously poppy that you can't help but tap your feet. "Tears of My Tracks" also cracks me up, because it's about a guy selling his record collection in a fit of emo.

Sample Song Downloads: St. Monday, Jane Allen, Distant Shore, Tears of My Tracks


If you just want to hit one page, you can download all files listed above from a single Billy Bragg project page by clicking here.


To find previous thumbnail reviews, go to the Review Index.

After the download links expire, you can listen to streaming MP3 files linked with reviews at my Vox shadow blog for media.


Rating system:
None = Avoid at all cost. Worth cutting your ears off to avoid if someone threatens to play it for you. When faced with even the threat of its cellophane-wrapped presence, your best option is to RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

$= If you stumble across it for cheap in a used bin, it might, maybe, perhaps could be worth the buy, but only if you need a cheap coaster for your cold drinks or a cool-looking Frisbee.

$$= You might want to give this CD/artist a try, but only if the sample track tickles your fancy. Don't bother buying this one new because the good tunes you'd get out of this one ain't worth that kind of money.

$$$ = Worth looking for on a casual basis and maybe even buying new, but no big rush.

$$$$ = Definitely worth having in the ol' CD collection and definitely worth buying new, but don't re-arrange your personal "must have" list to get your hands on it.

$$$$$ = Why haven't you bought this CD yet? Go. This is a "Want. Take. Have." situation because you so want this.

As always, the management would love it if you comment, especially if you download the sample tracks.
Tags: music: download, music: music from the cube, music: review

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