New Internationalist

Mr Love & Justice

July 2008

by Billy Bragg

A Bragg to fit all moods.

Actually, two Billy Braggs for the price of one – not so much a double album, as a double-disked album, each platter featuring the same 12 songs, the only difference being the split between the band and solo version. A Bragg to fit all moods, you might say – and a gesture that is pleasingly generous, as well.

Bragg, 50 this year, is a songwriter who’s matured splendidly. The firebrand guitarist, fresh out of the British Army and belting out incendiary songs to change the world, can still be glimpsed on Mr Love & Justice. Indeed, the title could even be read as a self-deferential dig. Bragg tempers the unfashionable humanity of his songs with a sad acknowledgement of current realities. ‘O freedom! What liberties are taken in your name,’ runs the sardonic refrain of ‘O Freedom’ – a lyric that summons visions of Guantánamo as well as the terrorists whose actions abuse the gifts of freedom. You would expect that on an album that offered both band and solo mixes of the same songs, the band versions would be the more boisterous. Not so. The solo disc is characterized by Bragg’s choppy, fuzzed guitar and a voice in vigorous mode. Only on the acapella ‘I Almost Killed You’ does a vulnerability appear.

Featuring Bragg’s back-up band, the Blokes, and a host of mandolins, bouzoukis and keyboards, the other mix isn’t exactly sedate either. ‘The Beach Is Free’ and ‘Sing Their Souls Back Home’ and, with Robert Wyatt, ‘I Keep Faith’ are zappy, bluesy numbers that are elevated by their expansive spirit to new highs.

This column was published in the July 2008 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on Mr Love & Justice

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Mr Love & Justice Fact File
Product information Cooking Vinyl COOKCD452X CD
Star rating4
Product link

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Music

All Music

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 413

New Internationalist Magazine issue 413
Issue 413

More articles from this issue

  • Couscous (La Graine et Le Mulet)

    July 1, 2008

    Kechiche, like Fatih Akin, the Turkish-German film-maker, shows us how the lives of migrants and their children straddle cultures, and, like Akin’s Head-On, Couscous is passionate and earthy.

  • Toxic blocks

    July 1, 2008

    No-one said oil was clean. But Ecuador’s experience of extracting fossil fuels is about as bad as it gets, reports David Ransom.

  • John McCain

    July 1, 2008

    Presidential hopeful John McCain gets the treatment

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.