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Don't Try This at Home

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4

All-Reviews.com Music Review: Don't Try This at Home

Artist: Billy Bragg
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: September 1991


Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

In a pop world that often values style over substance, Billy Bragg has stood out as someone more concerned with finding truth than success since he appeared in the early 80's with his guitar and unpolished cockney voice singing heartfelt political and personal songs. Over the years, his rough edges were slightly smoothed, but he has remained true to his socialist beliefs and kept his writing personal. He turned out to be an excellent interpreter and kindred spirit, on Mermaid Avenue, of Woody Guthrie, with whom he shared political beliefs that weren't just talk, an ability to not take himself too seriously and a sometimes confused but sincere desire todo right by woman.

Don't Try This At Home was an attempt by Bragg to stay true to his beliefs but make the music a little more accessible. Aristically, it was generally successful. Don't Try This at Home is a rich, deep collection which has Bragg working well in different modes. Fleshing out the sound was a good idea for Bragg whose voice, on its own, can be tough for some to take. Sexuality has playful lyrics, like "safe sex doesn't mean no sex, it just means use your imagination", which are well matched by the light musical feel, propelled by Johnny Marr's great guitar line and keyboards. You Woke Up My Neighborhood, which finds Bragg missing a tumultous relationship, similarly has a nice light, country feel with fiddle, pedal steel and Peter Buck's mandolin. Michael Stipe sings  background vocals with a fun, goofy broad country accent. Bragg is a little over his head vocally on Cindy of a Thousand Lives but the music is dreamy and fascinating.

Bragg also does well with less complex arrangements. Though it's maybe even better on its bigger sounding remix,  Accident Waiting to Happen gets more than enough energy from Bragg's raw, passionately played guitar which matches his passion  in taking on "a dedicated swallower of fascism."  Body of Water is a fun, simple rocker where Bragg and his childhood friend Wiggy  have a good time wailing on their guitars. Politically, Bragg occasionally bites off a little more than he can chew on songs like the somewhat politically confusing North Sea Bubble but normally his passion and real concern for people is very winning.The Few is an indictment of racists and soccer hooligans which has effective, if deceptively jaunty, horn driven accompaniment.

For the most part, the songs on Don't Try This at Home work best when they have a little edge. Bragg is pleasant but a little boring on quiet, sincere songs like Rumours of War and Moving the Goalposts. However, a few of the personal songs definitely hit home. His version of Everywhere, Greg Trooper's story of a World War II soldier trying to reconcile his mission to kill Asians with the fact that his Japanese-American friend was put in a camp, is a heartbreaker. On Tank Park Salute, Bragg sings touchingly of dealing with the death of a father. On Wish You Were Here,  Bragg abandons his usual conversational singing style for a vulnerable falsetto in poignantly singing about missing a lost true love, even when another lover is around. In all, Don't Try This at Home is a very good work from a unique, compelling performer. Most of the 16 songs are very good, both musically enjoyable and lyrically meaningful.

10000031

 


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