Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

The Milkman Of Human Kindness

I don’t keep a list of contemporary artists for whom I would really want a box set, but if I did, Billy Bragg would surely be near the top of the list – at least for his earlier and mid-period records. I had been tempted to get the three-disc Must I Paint You A Picture? compilation a couple years ago but held off, not really wanting the more recent material.

Now with Pitchfork reporting that Yep Roc will be reissuing his first four albums as double-disc reissues, individually and as a seven-disc box set which also includes a concert DVD, I have to consider if this is archive I’ve been waiting for. I find Bragg’s early discography to be a wee bit muddled – His first two albums (Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy and Brewing Up) were already collected on the Back To Basics set while the third album, Talking With The Taxman About Poetry, is available individually or in double-album format with fourth album Worker’s Playtime on the Victim Of Geography collection, which is what I’ve got.

So with Yep Roc releasing the first two albums as individual entities along What does it mean? I don’t know, I’m already confused. How do four individual double-disc sets combine into a 7-disc box set, including a bonus DVD? Something getting lost in the compiling? Or maybe Pitchfork’s math is off, I don’t know – I can’t find a proper press release that might shed some more light on exactly what the reissue configurations will be… Naturally, it’s the bonus materials that will decide whether or not these are worth getting, but I’d like to be reasonably economical in making the stuff I’ve already got redundant.

Billboard reports that in addition to the In The Reins collaborative EP with Iron & Wine due out on September 20, Calexico will be releasing their follow-up to 2003’s Feast Of Wire in the Spring of next year. They’re also doing some touring through the Summer that will bring them to Canada, but they’re going the wrong way up the 401 with stops in Ottawa and Quebec City. Alas. Calexico are one of my very favourite live bands – I hope the In The Reins tour comes through Hogtown.

Also in Billboard – not a whole lot of new information about the new Sigur Ros album. It will be out in September, narrowed down a bit from the Fall window they’d announced previously, and lyrics are written in Icelandic this time, rather than their usual made-up language of Hopelandish. This, of course, means that their songs will be precisely 0% more comprehensible to me. Excellent.

If you, like me, are feeling a Brian Eno-sized hole in your musical education, mayhap this primer/timeline courtesy of Exclaim will be just the thing to get you started.

Not a concert, per se, but sure to be a hot ticket regardless – Pollstar has The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart is coming to town for a stand-up gig at Massey Hall on October 7. Tickets go on sale Monday and will run you $55.50 to $79.50.

Tiny Mix Tapes rattles off ten things that made them (collectively) want to be rock stars. Rather than rock writers. “Bastards Of Young”? Hell, yes.

np – Echo & The Bunnymen / Songs To Learn & Sing

By : Frank Yang at 8:24 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Prof. Fury says:

    My friend Gorjus did a pretty swell cartoon about Billy Bragg and "A New England" at our blog–here’s the link: http://…/

  2. Ninja says:

    ok, I’ve been coming here for several months now, and I still don’t know what ‘np’ stands for, apart from it being an ex-girlfriend’s initials.

  3. Frank says:

    np = now playing. This is what’s rocking my 8-track player, yo.

  4. orlando in texas says:

    frank what is your take on clap your hands and say yeah? they seem to be causing quite a buzz right now in america. the album is fantastic.

  5. Frank says:

    yeah, people are certainly wetting themselves over it. I’ve listened to the album once and thought it was pretty good, though having never really been a Talking Heads or Violent Femmes fan, the idea of a band that sounds like David Byrne fronting the Violent Femmes isn’t exactly a dream come true. I will have to give it a few more listens before I can judge the songcraft, but my initial response is that I don’t see it befitting the maelstrom of hype it’s gotten – but that’s of absolutely no fault of the band’s…

  6. brads says:

    A bit of advice: If you’re a regular Daily Show viewer, and you’re thinking about seeing stand-up Stewart, save your cash. Rehashed DS material alongside a bunch of lame lowest-common-denominator frat-style jokes. Was pretty disappointed when he hit Boston last year. He’s sooo much better in concentrated Daily Show doses.

    And I’ll be buying that Bragg box… I honestly have no choice at this point. If he releases it, I’m ownin’ it.

  7. Frank says:

    well the good people at yep roc have sent me the official press release, and it’s not that much clearer. I guess they’re combining a couple of the individual discs for the box set? Should be all the same material, though.

    For immediate release:

    July 6, 2005


    On September 20, 2005, Yep Roc Records will simultaneously reissue four Billy Bragg back-catalog titles, each including a bonus disc of rare and previously unreleased material. The four titles will be available individually and as a box set that will include an additional booklet and DVD of unreleased live footage

    "Trying to change the world by singing about it is a dirty business but someone has to do it." – Billy Bragg, 1988

    England’s Billy Bragg, described as a "national treasure" in his home country, has spent the last two decades writing and performing passionate, witty, socially conscious music. In doing so, he’s forged a career that’s spanned decades, political regimes and musical fashions while managing to endure as a voice for compassion, reason and political accountability.

    Balancing his earthy love songs with the musical activist tradition of the leftist troubadours of old (Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Woody Guthrie), Bragg, armed only with a cheap electric guitar, traveled the world as a one-man punk-folk ambassador. His well-honed wit and way with a musical hook, not to mention his non-rock star ethic – he once said, "razor blades are for shaving and pound notes are for putting in the bank, not up the nose" – have made him a modern working-class hero.

    On September 20, 2005, Yep Roc Records will re-issue four of Bragg’s early releases, each containing an additional disc of rare and unreleased material. Yep Roc will simultaneously issue a box set of the four releases (a total of seven CDs and one DVD) that will also include an extensive lyric booklet and an additional DVD with previously unavailable live footage.

    We first meet the young Billy circa 1983’s Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy, an EP done on the cheap which went on to sell over 100K copies in the UK alone with no advertising, no video, no rock-star poses. This is followed by 1984’s Brewing Up With Billy Bragg, 1986’s Talking With the Taxman About Poetry, and a release that combines 1990’s The Internationale and 1988’s Live & Dubious EPs. Each release will feature the re-mastered original and a second disc of bonus material, much of it previously unavailable and handpicked by Billy and longtime Bragg cohorts Grant Showbiz and Wiggy – a labor of love indeed.

    More punk than folk, Bragg’s forcefully strummed guitar and rough-around-the-ages vocals (not to mention thick Cockney accent) belie his keen sense of melody and ability to write instantly memorable pop songs (a la Ray Davies). Maybe the universal nature of Bragg’s appeal comes from the fact that he doesn’t just deal in the politics of governments and world leaders but also in dynamics of love and sexuality. And while some of these songs are over two decades old, this collection – heard against the current backdrop of faith-based initiatives and global conflicts — sounds as current as ever in their call for understanding and basic human compassion.

    Billy, we need you now more than ever.

  8. Chris says:

    While it doesn’t preclude getting these reissues, do indeed pick up the 3 disc set. While the last album was week, William Bloke is severely underrated and it also contains the great tracks from Reaching to the Converted.

  9. Matzohball77 says:

    Peculiar list from Tiny Mix Tapes on what would inspire someone to want to be a rock star. Yes to Bastards of Young or anything by the Relacements. But the Beatles playing on the roof!?!? They just showed how far they’d come from being a great band (circa ’65) to being an ugly bunch of studio noodlers.

    Keep on rockin’, Frank. Love your site.


  10. duus says:

    lookin’ forward to the boxed set! is that picture from the Mermaid Ave days? I seem to remember it from "Man in the Sand." And you being such a wilco fan, frank…