England, Half English
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Top Customer Reviews
The album contains a few gems, a few mediocre songs, and a few that are painful to hear. Being a HUGE fan of the British Isles, I found the song "Take Down the Union Jack" to inspire a bit of melancholy and a bit of acceptance...the Isles have changed.
Other songs like "Baby Farouk", "Distant Shore", and "Tears of My Tracks", bring you to remember some of his older albums quite fondly.
This album is fairly decent, but is missing something. Compared to William Bloke this is one notch below. This album most directly corresponds to Don't Try This at Home...
So, if you are a Billy Bragg fan, you should buy this album (if only for Take Down the Union Jack). If you have never listened to Billy before, then I suggest you go pick up Back to Basics or William Bloke before hand.
Billy shows an almost Beatles-esque style on his first track, entitled St. Monday, which speaks in a joking manner of the workplace hours in an office.
No Power Without Accountability, the fifth track on the album, shines with a Springsteen-like flavour that makes you almost believe that Max Weinberg is in the back of the studio wailing away on the set to drum out the steady snare beat which is so unaccustomed in Billy Bragg albums.
The highlight of the album comes with "Take Down the Union Jack", a different kind of song that many die-hard Bragg-fans have been missing. From the first words of this anti-nationalist anthem, Billy Bragg is accompanied by just his guitar, alone against the world, and one is reminded of his old days.
It made me remember a picture of him that I have, taken from the back, where he is standing alone in front of a crowd at Wembley Stadium, with his guitar slung behind him like the last lone socialist soldier.
And being the only person under 40 that can pull off talking about Socialism without coming off self-conscious, he may be the last of his breed.
"Distant Shore" is a beautiful plangent song about asylum-seekers, one of the most turbulent (and overheated) issues in the UK right now, from the simple perspective of a man wishing to have some kind of decent existence. "England Half-English" is thematically-linked, being a decisive refutation of white nationalist claims to being the sole owners of "English" identity. It's also got a great beat and cool instrumentation. In "Take Down the Union Jack", Billy revisits the issue of empire once more, this time urging some sort of redefinition of what it means to be English in this age. And it's another gorgeous melody. The final song in this vein is "Baby Farouk". It's not a direct comment on England, but I think it can easily be understood as an appeal to inclusion and tolerance in English society.
For me the above four songs alone are well worth the price of admission.Read more ›
Bragg has come a long way since the raw solo guitar of "Brewing Up with Billy Bragg." He continues to expand and explore musically on "English, Half English." Again, the first listening was disappointing. But I've learned by now to stick with Bragg and it grows on me with each listen. This outing certainly takes Bragg even further down the road musically. "Dreadbelly" is an odd song - even reading the lyric sheet I can't figure out what it's about - that has a nice ska lilt. The song "Englan, Half English" is half spoken/chanted half sung. The music is a style I'm not familiar with. Half English Music Hall half Reggae/raga?
Bragg's political concerns are a bit more inwardly focused on this album. Rather than broad strokes about socialism v. capitalism, for the most part he is concerned with the current state of England and the nature and meaning of being English. Some of the references are therefore may be a bit obscure for most American listeners. When Bragg sings on "Take Down the Union Jack" "Gilbert and George are taking the piss aren't they" I really don't know what he means. I'm hoping I get some clue on one of the Bragg web sites.
While lacking a love song of the quality of "February 14th" (instead there is a song about wrongly being viewed as unfaithful) there is a nice range among the songs: from an anti-globalization anthem to an account of his depression after selling his LP collection.
In sum, buy this album, give it a few listens, and just remember that once again we're dealing with a brand new Billy Bragg.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Billy Bragg DOES want to change the world and he IS looking for a new England (though some people still prefer it when he sings about looking for another girl). Read morePublished on February 16, 2010 by Richard Hine
but a fantastic release from Billy Bragg. If you're particularly a fan of the political lyrics, this album is a must, as the criticism is all over these songs, especially "NPWA,"... Read morePublished on July 28, 2007 by Elizabeth L. Hyzy
There's not many in Billy's league. Great effort.
But ... who IS the twit who posted the comments about Billy being racist? Put 'em up mate!
This is the first Billy Bragg CD I have purchased. I loved nearly every song and would therefore highly recommend it.Published on June 13, 2002
Unfortunately this is his poorest record to date. If you're already a fan, then I guess there are 1 or 2 half decent tracks. Read morePublished on May 16, 2002 by Simon Carne
One reviewer deemed this music racist, presumably because of the song "English, Half English." This is a misreading of the intent of the artist. Read morePublished on March 31, 2002 by Ed Luhrs
To the genius from Portland who seems to think Billy is a racist: you might also enjoy reading the work of cannibal author Jonathon Swift.Published on March 25, 2002
This album was a major disapointment. I am a long time fan and will admit that I had to work at the last album, but I have to say that he finally may have come to the end of his... Read morePublished on March 22, 2002 by Christopher Lord
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