Don't Try This at Home

Britain’s Billy Bragg has always divided his work evenly between the two extremes of his doppelgängerous personality. Half love-struck folk singer, half infuriated punk rocker, Bragg has over his last four albums butted enraged left-wing diatribes, with titles like ”Help Save the Youth of America,” up against mushy ballads about unrequited love. Both types of songs always had a streak of wide-eyed romanticism running through them, but the love songs were invariably better than the political ones, since unrequited love was the one subject Bragg really seemed to know something about. On his latest record, Don’t Try This at Home, however, Bragg has combined sex and politics, his two great interests, into one — sexual politics — and the result is smashing. Songs like ”Sexuality,” ”Accident Waiting to Happen,” and ”Body of Water” are witty, roaring pop tunes that never degenerate into the ugly rants of old, while even the more political numbers, ”Everywhere” and ”North Sea Bubble,” are more moving and less patronizing than before. Bragg’s rough cockney vocals are also enhanced by the lush bed of violin and grand piano that he buries the tunes in, and the result is a package that finally showcases just how charming idealism can be. A-

Don't Try This at Home
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