Brewing Up with Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg

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Brewing Up with Billy Bragg Review

by David Cleary

Bragg's first full album delivers another clutch of memorable, clever songs. Here the rudimentary voice and electric guitar arrangements prevalent in Life's a Riot With Spy Vs. Spy are refined and sweetened by occasional use of overdubbed vocals ("Love Gets Dangerous"), organ ("A Lover Sings"), and trumpet ("The Saturday Boy"); this last selection is a jaunty mid-tempo number about unrequited love that makes reference to the Delfonics' "La-La Means I Love You." Occasional 1950s influences surface on this album, most notably Bo Diddley in the jittery "This Guitar Says Sorry" and Chuck Berry in the bouncy "From a Vauxhall Velox" (which has the classic couplet "Some people say love is blind/But I just think that it's a bit short-sighted"). In addition to songs about relationships, there are also pointedly critical numbers that deal with social/political issues; examples include "It Says Here" (a ringing gruff tune that lampoons the press) and "Island of No Return" (a gripping and angry antiwar song). This excellent release has been supplanted by Back to Basics, which combines this album with Life's a Riot and Between the Wars into a single entity.

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