Billy Bragg - England, Half English (with The Blokes) (Cover Artwork)

Billy Bragg

England, Half English (with The Blokes) (2002)


When it comes to politically-fueled folk-pop, I would be hard-pressed to find a group and/or artist more recomendable than the very English Billy Bragg. His anti-establishment ethos and witty, intelligent lyrics have earned a sizeable amount of respect in the alternative music scene and his influence is evident among peers. His latest work, a collaboration with the Blokes, is Bragg's first collection of original songs in six years. But, is it worth the wait...?


The followup to the very poular 'Mermaid Avenue' series, England, Half English is more politically themed than previous efforts. With song titles like "Take Down the Union Jack" and "He'll Go Down," this is hardly surprising. The album begins with "St. Monday," an infectious rock/pop track that wouldn't feel out of place on an Elvis Costello album. One thing that struck me initially was the talent of the musicians involved, particularily pianist Ian McLagan. The goodness of track one continues into "Jane Allen" and "Distant Shore," the former of which is the first romance song on the disc, of which Bragg has been higly praised for. The next few songs are fairly mediocre, a word I would rarely associate with the artist. Things pick up again with the aforementioned "Take Down the Union Jack," the best of the poltical tracks on the album. The song is fairly slow and is followed by the overall highlight of the album, the energeitc "Another Kind of Julie." From there on we are left with a selection of songs that really didn't strike me as special, although, for the most part, they are all very much listenable.

England, Half English is a fairly dverse album, musically. The styles range from slow soul to folk and uplifting rock to ska, and pretty much everything in between. The music is perfectly executed by a group of highly capable musicians, who supply occasionally tedious instrumentals to accompany Bragg's lyrics.

I find it disheartining to give a Billy Bragg album any less than 5 stars, as most of his previous work deserves that very score. However, with England, Half English I cannot help but feel ultimately disappointed. There are some very good songs, but they are few and far between, and there are simply not enough for me to completely recommend to anyone but the avid Billy Bragg fan.

Still, his presence is neccesary in the world of pop music, now moreso than ever. I just hope that with his next relase, Bragg offers something with a little more kick.