Review Revue: Billy Bragg - Brewing up with Billy Bragg

Review Revue
04/05/2018
Levi Fuller

Welcome to Review Revue, where every Thursday I dig through the KEXP stacks to share DJ reviews and comments written on the covers of LPs (and occasionally CDs) in the ’80s and ’90s, when the station was called KCMU, the DJs were volunteers, and people shared their opinions on little white labels instead of the internet.


Billy Bragg has long been a beloved figure here at KEXP (and, before that, at KCMU). But, as with so many things involving music and politics and highly opinionated lovers of music and disdainers of politics, it's been complicated. Pretty much any Billy Bragg album from the '80s that you pull out of the stacks will be filled with people arguing -- about his sparse production, about his politics, about his singing, you name it. Brewing Up with Billy Bragg is no different -- except for the politics part, as most of the songs here tackle human emotions (or "contemporary mores," according to the album's subtitle).

While the general tenor of debate devolved fairly quickly, I think it started from a place of genuine disagreement that might have been worth exploring: Those who feel Billy Bragg was and is a uniquely gifted songwriter and storyteller whose material shines in even the simplest of settings, and those who are wrong. Fortunately, it seems the right side won out through the time-honored debate tactic of contradicting everything your opponent says.

I don't know when Mr. Bragg will be hitting our shores (and scribbling on our records?) next, but if you're in the UK you can catch him at one of many dates this summer. Tell him we love him!

 "I like it, but not that much!"

"OK but you can't pee w/a record." [I think that's what this says? There's an arrow pointing to the left, where there's a label-shaped yellow spot indicating there once were more comments here that have been lost to the dustbin of history. One can only imagine what might have started this line of discussion.]

"'A Lover Sings' is nice . . . hell, it's great! But I think (I think I might be starting a war here . . .) all of his music is beginning to sound the same. I mean there's only so many love songs a guy can sing along with his guitar."

"If there's only 'so many songs a guy can sing with a guitar,' I wonder how the music to a good 90% of all rock songs was written . . ."

"I met him + he's a really nice guy, so play his record!"

"Yup, he is. I have a picture of me and Billy standing on toilets in stalls of a men's room together hanging in my kitchen."

"I think this guy is painfully dull!"

"That is ridiculous."

"No, it's not!!!"

"Please, this is ['great' scratched out, 'not that bad' written in different handwriting]"

"Oh yes it is."

"No your taste is."

"I take it back, I love this man."

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