perfect time to revisit or discover Bragg's glory years, because he's coming to the Ark on a tour to promote the re-release of four classic albums (each with
a second CD of bonus tracks) and a boxed set compiling them.
Bragg thrilled the British independent-music scene in 1983 with Life's a Riot with Spy vs. Spy, his raucous solo electric debut, a seven-song burst of blistering guitar and ultrawitty lyrics that mixed love, lust, and socialism. The debut and 1984's Brewing Up with Billy Bragg (long available together on the single CD Back to Basics, now reissued separately) announced a new voice: a guitar hero influenced by Clash-style punk rock with an earnest troubadour stance inspired by folk tradition. On "A New England," his signature love and antilove song, he veered from heartbreaker to heartbroken, letting a girl go with little regret, then wishing on two shooting stars and realizing they're satellites: "Is it wrong to wish on space hardware?/I wish, I wish, I wish you cared."