Lyrically, for a long while, as Gary Byrd might have put it, Elvis Costello wore ‘The Crown’.
Rhymes and puns second to none poured forth from Declan’s pen with apparent ease and some style. I’d like to talk today though about the album that signalled the coronation of a ‘Young pretender’, Billy Bragg.
Billy quipped, punned and threw about wonderfully cutting comments slightly clumsily at first (I’m thinking ‘Milkman of human kindness' here). Slowly but surely Billy got better and better until hitting his lyrical high with today’s cassette, ‘Don’t try this at home’.
The album seamlessly mixes pop and politics and is suitably bookended by two of Billy’s ‘loud and spiky’ tunes. The first, including the now legendary ‘dedicated swallower of fascism’ line is the wonderfully powerful ‘Accident waiting to happen’, the last ‘Body of water’ includes the similarly wonderful ‘out of bed experience’ lyric.
With top-notch guest artists like Kirsty MacColl, Johnny Marr, Danny Thompson, Peter Buck and Michael Stipe it’s no the wonder that a high quality is maintained throughout, with brilliant tunes like ‘You woke up my neighbourhood’, ‘Tank park salute’ and ‘Moving the goalposts’ shining brightly.
Two tracks are of particular note;
‘Sexuality’ has one of the most intelligent lyrics ever written about ...well…sexuality. At the time this tape was on ‘heavy rotation’ in my Mitsubishi L300 van, so I would always loudly substitute ‘I drive a Mitsubishi L300’ at the point at which Billy would tell us he drove a Mitsubishi Zero.
And the thought-provoking ‘Rumours of war’ about a country preparing for war is essentially a part 2 to Billy’s own early classic ‘Between the wars’.
This turned out to be Billy’s most successful album, possibly not quite his best, but certainly in the same tank park.
Label – Go! Discs
Year - 1991