Posts Tagged ‘Billy Bragg’

Dear Readers,

By the title I think I’ve made it pretty clear what the subject of this post is to be about. However, if you’ve never experienced the frustration of buying an album on a whim, realizing that the music on it is too poppy, slow, or so teen angst-y, that every verse was practically a dear-diary-why-is-everyone-against-me moment, that you send it into hibernation in your i-tunes library; then I think you should seriously question your inability to be impulsive… and waste money.

If the glee of uncovering this said album months or years later and absolutely savoring every track until the last song dies out and the repeat button has long since malfunctioned, is a feeling you have known, then read on! Here are my top albums that have spent a little too long in the cluttered corners of my CD- collection.

1. Imagine Dragons- Night Visions

When I first got this album, the almost nonsensical lyrics didn’t mesh with me; they didn’t delve deep enough to provoke any emotion, especially in tracks like ‘Amsterdam’ or ‘I Don’t Mind’. I got back into them with a ferocious nature when my sister expressed her interest in the band. Now the album is one of my favorites, some tracks may have rather sad lyrics, but they are accompanied by these wonderful ‘optimistic’ beats – I feel really joyful when I listen to this album, it’s quite happy-go-lucky.  The song writer depicts taking things into your stride and being, well… optimistic! (Which gives way to the lyrics that tend to dance around the subject instead of describe them fully) My favorite songs right now are ‘Selene’, ‘Tiptoe’ and ‘Demons’.

2. Pop Party 5

A look of disdain is probably spreading across your face as you read the title, but I don’t care! They remind me of simpler times, when CDs like these were played at 5th birthday parties and cake was consumed in overwhelming amounts. With (terrifying) future prospects and obligations that fill me with dread being on the horizon; I can tune in, and zone out, wrapped up in the bubblegum pink paper of childish fancy. These songs don’t explain heartbreak in excruciating detail or lament the terrible decisions we have made; they burst in, and order me to laugh, and smile, for anything that made me dance as a child could never be taken seriously now. Besides… they have the greats: Lily Allen, Take That, McFly (this whole McBusted thing is another collaboration that I will love to loath in the future), Mika! Sometimes I just need to listen to these songs, watch a Disney film, and pull my Teddy Bear (his name is  R) out from under my bed… it’s the only way I’ll stay sane!

3. Billy Bragg- Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy

Unfortunately, I can’t get the album cover up on the blog (ah the irritations of technology), but I felt I had to pull out the big guns in order to redeem myself after the 5 year old in me took over to wreak havoc on my (non-existent) musical reputation.

Last but not least, the album that I almost never listened to for a while. Billy Bragg is like the older, more politicized version of another singer I love, called Cosmo Jarvis. When I first acquired this CD, the sum of the tracks I enjoyed were too little to justify my listening of the tracks I couldn’t stand. Those songs didn’t reach me, they commented on society and experiences I am yet to have; it was difficult to identify with the lyrics. Some examples are ‘Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend’, ‘The Cloth’ or ‘The Busy Girl Buys Beauty’. The first song I heard of Bragg’s was ‘A New England’ and I think I wrongly mistook him for a happy-go-lucky singer who would write mostly about early romance and other easily deconstructed topics, and found it difficult to adapt to his way of writing. As I grew older, analyzing his poetry became easier and I realize that his work is passionate and fiery, I couldn’t understand it because I didn’t have a passion of my own. My favorites include ‘The Milkman Of  Human Kindness’ and ‘The Man In The Iron Mask’.

So that’s it; the songs that really do need a bit of time and space to flourish into wonderful works of art that will capivate you, so you find yourself  listening again and again.


P.S. Not sure of my feelings on the Alice Cooper documentary ‘Super Dooper Alice Cooper’ which has found it’s way to my local cinema. Hopefully I’ll be able to get myself over there and let y’all know what I think!


I find it quite difficult to compare an American godmother of grunge-punk, and an English alternative musician and left-wing activist in the same piece of text, but I’m going to do it anyway, because Patti Smith and Billy Bragg aren’t so different when stripped down to basics.

A trait that both these amazingly talented musicians have in common, is the fact that their lyrics are like a tale set to music. Billy Bragg’s beautifully expressive poetry has always brought out the emotional side of me, and equally, Patti Smith’s raw and haunting ballads can often take my breath away; as they do in ‘Waiting Underground’.

My favorite thing about the way that Patti Smith and Billy Bragg write songs is that, the situations and feelings that the artists describe, sometimes aren’t obvious, or have different meanings to different beholders; this is something that Chris Martin from Coldplay does as well when writing lyrics, and I love the imagination that arrives when I listen to the words of these really gifted vocalists.  It’s like each song is a short story, or a chapter in an autobiography.

The intro to ‘Waiting Underground’ is quite simple, but effective, there is great comparison to the opening bass and drums and the grungy electric guitar with elements of ‘welcoming’ piano. Patti’s voice rings in with strength, and lingers with every breath she takes. As soon as she’s finished the first few lines, listeners already understand the mysterious message behind her lyrics.

There by the ridge be a gathering beneath the pilgrim moon,
Where we shall await the beat of your feet hammering the earth,
Where the great ones tremble,
In their snow-white shrouds,
Waiting underground.

“Pilgrim moon” and “The great ones tremble” gives us the feeling that she’s describing some sort of magic or witchery occurring in this story that she’s trying to tell us, and she seems to be talking about a grim experience or even death when she sings

If you believe all your hope is gone,
Down the drain of your humankind,
The time has arrived.

Her voice reminds me of a tamed lion, it’s calm, but underneath the placid exterior of her vocals, there is something wild and passionate, shaking with life and soul. Everything about Patti Smith just seems to get better and better, and at 66, I don’t think she’s ever been stronger.

The boyish charm in Billy Bragg’s voice really compliments ‘A New England’, because it emphasizes the fact that at the time he wrote the song, he was a dazed and confused young man who, didn’t really know what to do with his time on earth. The intro starts with a rhythmic guitar beat, and then something magical happens, Billy Bragg’s voice announces itself in the song with:

I was twenty one years when I wrote this song,
I’m twenty two now, but I won’t be for long,
People ask when will you grow up to be a man,
But all the girls I loved at school,
are already pushing prams.

And suddenly, we’re off. Listeners have already learned that Bragg’s younger self felt under the pressure of his piers to grow up, and let go of his childhood. When he says “All the girls I loved at school are already pushing prams”  we know he felt under even more pressure to settle down, because girls that were his age, are already mothers and have families.

I saw two shooting stars last night,
I wished on them but they were only satellites,
Is it wrong to wish on space hardware,
I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care.

These are probably my favorite lyrics in the whole song, because they instantly paint a picture of this guy who’s yearning for a lost love or something. Suddenly, beat changes and the guitar seems to take over in a head bobbing solo, and after that short marvel, Billy Bragg fades out leaving us in awe.

Let me know what you think,