Monday, June 04, 2007

The Crazy World of Billy Bragg: part three

Talking With The Taxman About Poetry bills itself as the difficult third album, but the record features some of his best work. OK, maybe the political analysis in 'Ideology' is a bit trite, but 'There Is Power in a Union' is very striking. Bragg took the tune to American Civil War song 'The Battle Cry of Freedom' (so catchy that both sides used to sing it) and gives it lyrics about the importance of trade union activism. It is a fists-in-the-air classic, and I hope no members of the boss class find themselves in Carwash Mansions when I am listening to it. 'Help Save the Youth of America' is also interesting. It begins with Bragg talking about how the youth of America need saving from consumerism and materialism (usual lefty shite, in other words), before twisting into a new direction by warning how adventurist US leaders risk igniting a war that will not exist solely beyond the Western hemisphere. As Bragg reels off the names of American cities that will burn with those of Europe, you almost sense that he longs for friendly bombs to fall on Omaha, such is the vitriol that has crept into his voice. Go Billy!

The real triumph of this album, though, is one of the non-political songs, 'Levi Stubbs' Tears'. Bragg uses a jarring guitar chord to express the sense of despair that characterises this song. It is an astonishingly affecting piece of music.

No comments: