Angry folkie-punk ripens with age
Considering the impassioned stump speeches he’s been known to give during live performances, it’s hard to imagine Billy Bragg at a loss for words. But the mere two discs of original material he’s released during the last 17 years betray a dearth of things to say, both in quantity and quality, lacking as the albums have been in the keen emotional punch and wit that established Bragg as an artist of singular gifts. That’s why this album is such a particular pleasure. Rather than being a return to form, it’s a leap forward in maturity, depth and nuance. While the themes of emotional politics and social justice are in place, Bragg strikes a bold new balance between the two. As such, songs like “M For Me,” “The Beach Is Free” and the delightful title track reveal a wiser, more playful approach than ever.