Billy Bragg - Mr. Love and Justice (Cover Artwork)

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg: Mr. Love and JusticeMr. Love and Justice (2008)
Anti- Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: JeloneJelone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

My girlfriend calls it old people music; I call it brilliant. Old-school punk/folk troubadour Billy Bragg dropped Mr. Love and Justice this week, and while his style has mellowed out since 1983's Life's a Riot with Spy vs. Spy, there's no denying him his place among the best rock lyricists. Bragg ha.
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My girlfriend calls it old people music; I call it brilliant. Old-school punk/folk troubadour Billy Bragg dropped Mr. Love and Justice this week, and while his style has mellowed out since 1983's Life's a Riot with Spy vs. Spy, there's no denying him his place among the best rock lyricists. Bragg has always walked a line between the personal and the political, and Mr. Love and Justice is just that. While the record tends to steer towards accounts about fidelity, Bragg still finds time for a socio-political jab here and there.

Musically, Bragg's style has shifted over the years. His voice, honest and British-y, is about the same, but all sorts of instruments have worked their way into his songwriting. Bragg's backing band, the Blokes, add a bluegrass/country twang to Bragg's Celtic/folk traditionalism. A noticeable increase in production quality might be distracting to some. It's weird; the album is by no means overproduced, but compared to a lo-fi masterpiece like Talking with the Taxman About Poetry, it might feel that way. Those who can't handle more than two instruments at a time might want to pick up Love's deluxe edition, which boasts a second version of the record with just Bragg and guitar. There are some noticeable arrangement differences, which makes it a worthwhile purchase for others as well.

But people don't come to Bragg solely for the music. They come for the lyrics. And man, does the guy deliver. The love songs are the ones that leave the strongest impression, and the way Bragg delivers word play like "Take the ??M' for me and the ??Y' for you / Out of family and it all falls through" on "M for Me" ring true. Bragg sings about the importance of relying on one's significant other a lot here, like on "You Make Me Brave" or "Something Happened." There's a also a bit of paranoia about losing love, like on "If You Leave" or "I Almost Killed You," that show how fragile a relationship can be. Sometimes when things are going too well, we invent problems to complicate a love, something that Bragg taps into quite well here.

Bragg isn't all Mr. Love, though. There's still that Justice part, such as on "O Freedom," a simple protest song against government torture. A line as basic as "O Freedom / What liberties are taken in thy name" is packed with meaning when Bragg sings it, not to mention a wee bit of a double entendre in that freedom/liberty bit.

While I recommend this record to all, I especially want to point out "The Beach Is Free," a little ditty that every last New Jerseyian should check out. Enough with the beach tags already.

Mr. Love and Justice doesn't outshine Bragg's earlier work; Don't Try This at Home is still his crowning full-band accomplishment, in my eyes. And the political jibes occasionally miss -- "The Johnny Carcinogenic Show" is an anti-smoking anthem that depends heavily upon its title pun, even though Johnny Carson has been dead for three years and off the air for almost 16. But overall, it's a quality record all the same. A quarter of a century later, Bragg is still writing anthems, social critiques and emotional connections of the finest quality.


People who liked this also liked:
NOFX - The DeclineJawbreaker - 24 Hour Revenge TherapyThe Clash - London CallingWeezer - WeezerAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl RoseThe Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsThe Lawrence Arms - The Greatest Story Ever ToldAgainst Me! - Searching For A Former ClarityThe Specials - The SpecialsThe Loved Ones - Build & Burn

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Tye (September 13, 2008)

Great album, disagree about the Johnny Carcinogenic criticism, although it's one I've read often enough. It's a great song musically, and Billy has reason to hate smoking, 'cos his dad died of lung cancer. The song makes good points in it's lyrics too, so I don't really get why people say it relies too much on the title of the song.

Also, someone mentioned his patriotic thing he's going through at the moment, and although I don't completely agree with what he says, his heart's in the right place and I think what he's trying to achieve is a sense of anti-patriotism rather than patriotism, in the sense of an anti-hero still being a hero of sorts. If that makes sense. He wants the UK to celebrate its multiculturalism, which is rather unlike any kind of patriotism I've ever heard of ever.

I'm not a big fan of England, Half-English, this is 100x better.

penrose (May 30, 2008)

I wish more people had the chance to listen to Mr. Bragg; there are too many kids listening to self-proclamed punk acts. I am so sick of the 'punk' music out there and on this site today. One listen to a Billy Bragg greatest hits record would change a lot of kids' perception about the value of good music, not just the image.

mrdogg45 (April 25, 2008)

congrats on the staff add Jelone. too bad you're a HACK

crackpotdemagogue (April 24, 2008)

i'm a huge fam of mr. bragg... but it makes me sick to the stomach hearing him talk about being a 'progressive patriot'. year on year he seems to be becoming more and more regressive and conservative, yet he would still call himself a socialist... score is for any incarnation of patriotism

cubaricho (April 24, 2008)

This is a really laid back and mellow album. Great for a Sunday afternoon with a cuppa.

douglas_is_rad (April 23, 2008)

Fucked Up is stoked.

rkl (April 23, 2008)

everything billy bragg does is good

TheMike (April 22, 2008)

It's alright. I was hoping for more, but it's decent.

IReviewMusic (April 22, 2008)

Thanks for reviewing this carefully. Billy Bragg is to be respected, at the very least, and I was very pleased with this record.

NotPatriotic (April 22, 2008)

Billy Bragg is amazing/brilliant/insert other positive terms. Score is for tracks 4 and 5 on this album as well as the man himself.

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