It was a long hard day at the bike mount line yesterday at the SunRype Tri-KiDS triathlon in Fergus, Ontario meaning I’m pretty sore today. I accomplished an easy 2000m drill swim this morning but I’m not really inspired to do anything else. It’s these opportunities then that I like to do those little, oh, so important workouts, that I just never deem important enough to do regularly…although I also recognize that I should. I mean do loves me my easy yoga stretches but among all the other workouts I also feel I need to accomplish weekly, they always seem to take a back seat. So I’m rectifying that this afternoon with this easy stretch out on my basement floor with the ‘Brewing Up with‘ album by Billy Bragg.
I largely credit my friend Michelle for introducing me to Billy Bragg back in high school. I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to him otherwise seeing as how just about all the other music I was listening to at the time involved ether copious amounts of psychedelics or black Mascara in order to enjoy them. Not that you can’t enjoy Billy Bragg with these things now, but it’s certainly not as integral or necessary.
My favorite was likely the ‘Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy‘ album, but this album was a very close favorite and got lots of play around my dorm room back in my first year of university. Not just because I loved it but because all the other guys on my floor listened to either Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam or Alice In Chains and this, well, let’s just say that this annoyed the shit out of them. Somewhere down the road though, I parted ways with the album as I did with other CD’s that were in my collection then. God only knows what happened to them.
Personally, I blame one of those grungy, goatee-d, plait jacketed dipshit’s from East E.
Bragg’s first full album delivers another clutch of memorable, clever songs. Here the rudimentary voice and electric guitar arrangements prevalent in ‘Life’s a Riot With Spy Vs. Spy‘ are refined and sweetened by occasional use of overdubbed vocals (‘Love Gets Dangerous‘), organ (‘A Lover Sings‘), and trumpet (‘The Saturday Boy‘); this last selection is a jaunty mid-tempo number about unrequited love that makes reference to the Delfonics’ ‘La-La Means I Love You‘.
Occasional 1950’s influences surface on this album, most notably Bo Diddley in the jittery ‘This Guitar Says Sorry‘ and Chuck Berry in the bouncy ‘From a Vauxhall Velox‘ (which has the classic couplet “Some people say love is blind/But I just think that it’s a bit short-sighted”). In addition to songs about relationships, there are also pointedly critical numbers that deal with social/political issues; examples include ‘It Says Here‘ (a ringing gruff tune that lampoons the press) and ‘Island of No Return‘ (a gripping and angry antiwar song).
At the time, the album reached #16 in the UK albums chart and in 2000 Q magazine placed this album at #87 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. Oh, and on another interesting note, the cover has the subtitle “A Puckish Satire On Contemporary Mores,” a quote from the Woody Allen film ‘Love and Death‘, in which Allen’s character reviews an army play presented to Russian soldiers to prevent them from becoming infected with venereal diseases while at war.
Umm, thanks for that Billy.
Anyway, I found this album a few weeks back at the Niagara Records store in downtown St. Catharines and even though the cover is in a bot of rough shape (the record is just fine) I knew this was an album that needed to be “rescued”. It certainly deserved more than where it was currently located in the discount bin for $4.00, so I happily snatched it up and brought it home. And as it turns out, it was a terrific nostalgic listen today while doing my slow yoga routine this afternoon and, hey, you just can’t put a price on that.