Best Albums of 2008: #20: Billy Bragg-Mr. Love and Justice

20. Billy Bragg: Mr. Love and Justice

In my world, it always begins and ends with Billy Bragg. He is probably one of the few remaining people (notice that I said few and not only—don’t want to discount anyone else here) who embodies the practice of political struggle inspired by music. In a year overshadowed by the hope and hype surrounding Obama, though, I’m not surprised that this album got very little blog attention in the U.S.

Sometimes, I find Bragg tired because I’d much rather listen to Riot Folk or Ghost Mice. He didn’t seem to go after Blair as much as Thatcher. Mr. Love and Justice reminded me that, above all, the man is a great folk musician. He accomplishes this without sounding any bit like the 1960’s (an accomplishment in and of itself). There isn’t a whole lot of politics here—and I am okay with that. There is a jab at the tobacco industry, and a few general songs about war. If you take all of that away, the album sounds every bit as twangy as a good folk album should. I like the subtlety of these songs. They could have been angry, loud, indignant. What Bragg communicates instead is that war and violence are now parts of our everyday existence, and that we are all too tired to scream and march anymore. We are outraged, yes, but our screams have fallen on deaf ears, and now it is time to eulogize the normalized taking away of freedom (“O, Freedom”), build community (“M for Me”), and focus on particular struggles (“The Johnny Carcinogenic Show”).

You can watch videos for most of the songs on the website.

Related posts:
Best of 2008: Intro


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