Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Billy Bragg - Talking With The Taxman About Poetry (1986)
Released September 1986
Recorded at Livingston Studios, London
This was Billy Bragg’s first proper “full band” album and it was not half bad. The stark, guitar-only sound of his first two offerings had been expanded upon. Keyboards, bass, drums, orchestration and even trumpets were being used now, to great effect too. It sounds just a little bit tinny these days, but back then, it was a big development for Bragg.
Some great, sensitive, often world-weary love songs such as the catchy “Greetings To The New Brunette” (“I’m celebrating my love for you with a pint of beer and a new tattoo”) and “The Warmest Room”. The cute observation of “The Marriage” with its sad, yearning trumpet solos; the country rock of “Honey I’m A Big Boy Now”; the frantic blues of “Train Train” and the soul-searching self-pity of “Wishing The Days Away” and “Levi Stubbs’ Tears”. Billy has always been an arch realist and at times, somewhat mournful. These songs are all like that. The analytical, almost philosophical “The Passion” exemplifies such feelings.
Then, of course, there are the great political/social comment songs - the lyrical paraphrase of Bob Dylan’s “Chimes Of Freedom” in “Ideology” (“just the sound of ideologies clashing”); the adaptation of the US Civil War song “Battle Cry Of Freedom” in the fist-punching “There Is Power In A Union”; the healthily anti-American “Help Save The Youth Of America” and the album’s best song, the marvellously evocative, imagery-packed and moving “The Home Front”. It was just such a great song for those of us who didn’t buy the “loadsamoney” shit of the mid-1980s. The whole album was. It gave me hope that there were some still around who thought and felt as I do. At times it could feel as if there wasn’t anyone.