Between the U.S. and the U.K, Brexit and travel bans, elections and fake news, the potential material for Billy Bragg and his signature protest songwriting has officially flooded over. On Friday, the English troubadour dropped the hammer with “The Sleep of Reason,” a spare electric-guitar track that aims its venom at social-media trolls, Internet addicts and folks who fly Confederate flags “just for show.”
Inspired by Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s etching from 1799, “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,” Bragg casts his net over the political and social events that have overwhelmed the U.S. and the U.K. “The title struck a chord with me when trying to understand the events of last year,” Bragg said. “The lies and hubris of the Leave campaign in our EU referendum were echoed and amplified by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Only by restoring empathy and reason can we hope to defeat the monstrous forces of nationalism and untruth.”
Jabs at the American election are explicit, with lines like “It’s over now, you lost my friend, move on just let it go / says the man who flies a Confederate flag / on his profile just for show” and “The kids are alt-right, giving license to all this hate.”
Bragg says there are plenty more singles where this came from: “Life comes at you real fast these days. What’s a singer-songwriter to do when events keep challenging the way that we see the world? Before we’ve had a chance to digest one startling development, along comes another to throw us off balance again.”
To keep up, Bragg plans to release new songs as they become ready this summer. “As always,” he said, “they’re my way of trying to make some sense of what’s going on.”
Check out the lyric video for “The Sleep of Reason” above, and download or stream it here.
In honor of the release of his new single, watch Bragg perform “The World Turned Upside Down” at SXSW 2013, an exclusive from the Paste Cloud.