Posts Tagged ‘billy bragg’


Music, tech and culture roundup

October 13, 2009


Help with research on music blogs: This came out a month or so ago, but I forgot to share it. Sophie Vernon, a master’s student at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, is trying to understand the relationship between music blogs and word of mouth. She’s put together a survey; it’s really short, and if you’re reading this it’s relevant to you, so go help her out.

Billy Bragg on piracy. A couple of weeks ago, a group of UK artists convened to discuss the issue of Internet piracy. Billy Bragg wrote an editorial for the Guardian where he makes a point I haven’t seen very often: he argues that any attempt to suppress filesharing entirely (by the recording industry asking legislators for ever-more-draconian sanctions) would entail giving unacceptably high control of the Internet to corporations. Read the full editorial here.

Sun Box installation: Important Records is hosting an installation art piece by Craig Colorusso this Saturday, October 17th. The piece consists of an array of speakers, each playing a guitar sample. As they’re solar-powered, what you hear will depend not only on your trajectory through the site but also the length of the day. Important is a Boston-area label, but it’s not clear where the piece will be set up; you can e-mail for details. (Via Justin Snow of Anti-Gravity Bunny.)

Policing leaks with politesse. Last year, z=z covered the new Hold Steady album, which had been leaked. We had noted that a company called Web Sheriff was sending ‘highly civilized takedown notices’ to blogs posting leaked tracks, so we posted a link to the approved track—and received a thank-you note, much to our surprise. The Guardian has an article on the company that is policing unauthorized tracks with reason and social engineering, not by threats.

What CD sales mean for artists. Last year, of 115,000 CDs released, only 6000 sold more than 1000 copies. Over at CNet, Matt Rosoff takes a sobering look at what different levels of CD sales means for artists. This is not likely to be news, but it pretty succinctly makes the case that CD sales alone aren’t going to make being an artist sustainable.

And, finally, some nerd love. Rolling Stone has a track-by-track guide to They Might Be Giants breakthrough album, Flood.

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Pre-election playlist

November 1, 2008

Like most progressives in the US, I’m rapidly oscillating between giddy optimism and fear. Naturally, I had to find a set of songs that reflects this. For best effect, set your iTunes playlist to ‘shuffle.’


MP3: The National – Mr November (National/Obama t-shirt, more National)

MP3: Bad Religion – You Are (the Government) (more Bad Religion, Overeducated musicians)

MP3: Billy Bragg – Waiting for the Great Leap Forward (more Billy Bragg, Concert notes)

MP3: Ted Leo – Keep on Pushing (Curtis Mayfield cover) (more Ted Leo, on z=z)


MP3: Bishop Allen – The Bullet and Big D (more Bishop Allen, Listen local)

MP3: Jarvis Cocker – Running the World (NSFW) (more Jarvis Cocker, on z=z)

MP3: The Awkward Stage – The Morons are Winning (more The Awkward Stage)

MP3: The Weakerthans – Pamphleteer (more Weakerthans, on z=z)

And what I really need:

MP3: The Ramones – I Wanna Be Sedated (more Ramones)


Concert notes: Billy Bragg

June 15, 2008

[embedded YouTube video; if you can’t see it, click here]

[Park West, Chicago, IL; June 14, 2008]

The songwriter Darrell Brown wrote in the New York Times’ ‘Measure for Measure’ blog that every good song needs three things: honesty, humanity, and hooks.

An honest song will show innocence, vulnerability and strength all at the same time…Then, it has to be full of humanity, and by that I mean the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual sides of humanity. The big themes — the brokenness and the triumph of it all….Then, finally — and this is extremely important to a song — it has to be filled with hooks, basically because I don’t want to bore people to death with all the honesty and humanity I am parading about.

By this measure (and, really, any other you care to name), Billy Bragg is a brilliant songwriter. I haven’t listened to much Billy Bragg recently, and I was struck by how much his songs have the power to move me emotionally. This was true of not only his older songs like “Sexuality,” but also songs from his new album, Mr. Love & Justice, including “I Keep Faith” and “Farm Boy,” both which I heard for the first time last night.

Bragg is also a remarkable performer – as he wryly put it last night, “You got to have a bit of showmanship – otherwise, it’s just folk music, innit?” This was my first Billy Bragg concert, and I hadn’t realized that his shows are about equally split between music and comic/political monologue (as the quote from his manager, near the start of the video above, suggests) – he makes Ted Leo seem taciturn. Occasionally, the humour and the music merged, such as when he played The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” in the style of Johnny Cash, or when he snuck the opening to the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” into the long guitar outro of “The Saturday Boy” – in deference to his older fans, whom he suspected might not get the joke, he followed it up with the famous riff from Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”

The only wrong note of the night was the venue, the Park West in Chicago. Think modernist dinner theatre – black and silver, all small tables and booths, with everyone was seated through the performance. The acoustics were terrific, but I’m not sure I need table service and I’m really not a fan of the insanely overpriced drinks ($9 for a tiny shot of Maker’s). What took it from oddly cushy to actually disturbing, however, was the superfluity of a bathroom attendant, an older black woman no less. It felt anachronistic – like I had time-traveled back to before the civil rights era. The cognitive dissonance of that, at the concert of a man who’s spent his life fighting against racism and sexism, left me reeling.

More Billy Bragg: website myspace emusic

Also check out his Wikipedia entry and his blog.