Billy Bragg Don't Try This At Home
Get It At Discogs
“Don’t Try This At Home” is the third album from the “Bard Of Barking” using a full band, and a bunch of usual suspects. Michael Stipe and Peter Buck from R.E.M join him for a little vocal and mandolin tussle, ex Smith Johnny Marr plays and produces two songs, and the sultry tones of Kirsty Maccoll add warmth to some of the more stark numbers. Bragg’s songs sound more ethereal, almost traditional using a full band, and a world away from his earlier neo punk rants. There’s no doubt that Bragg is a superb lyricist, with a take on subjects hardly ever transferred to popular music, but his earlier works were at times empty and raw, and the introduction of a full time band fills the songs with fuller melodies that works well throughout. Bragg covers all bases, and this would lyrically be his most diverse album. A deliberate move away from the Marxist preaching he was well known for; he covers relationships, his father’s death, protégé sportsmen who turn to religion, and sex. The album builds around the hit single “Sexuality”; a rambling pop workout which is both funny and full of self parody. His words are all ardent dreaming of the rock Star lifestyle Billy never adhered to. “I’ve had relations with women of all nations” is Billy just dreaming, and “I look like Robert De Niro, I drive a Mitsubishi Zero” couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many enjoyable moments including the opening anti Fascist Soap Box drama “Accident Waiting To Happen”, the story of Soccer wonder kid Peter Knowles, who gave his career up for Jehovah on “God’s Footballer”, “You Woke Up My Neighbourhood”, and the lonely “Dolphins”, a rare cover. For this reviewer the best song is his lament to his father on “Tank Park Salute”, where the emotion in his voice rips your heart when he sings “It’s always dark at the top of the stairs” and “You were so tall, how could you fall?” Should you look for an introduction to the music of Billy Bragg “Don’t Try This At Home” is a great place to start, where raw beauty is unassuming, and intelligence is never contrived to mean anything but warm honesty.