When Billy Bragg Changed Things Up on ‘Don’t Try This at Home’
On his sixth album, Don't Try This at Home, Billy Bragg continued to change things up, adding more colors to his sound, this time out with a little help from friends like former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and members of R.E.M.
Issued on Sept. 17, 1991, Don't Try This at Home remains one of Bragg's most solid and satisfying albums, stocked from top to bottom with great songs like opener "Accident Waiting to Happen." The slashing and jangling guitars chime as Bragg dishes out his typically brilliant lyrics, including lines like "You're an accident waiting to happen / You're a dedicated swallower of fascism."
The album's first single, "Sexuality," was as thought-provoking as it was catchy. "I think it's a very very important subject to be covered," he told an interviewer back in 1991. "Everyone's writing love songs; people should also write responsible love songs." The video for the song gained some airplay on MTV and other more alternative video outlets. "Once we had the lyrics down," he continued, "the video would have to follow that, and reflect that. There's a lot of humor, there's a lot of anti-stereotyping stuff, a lot of non-gender specific stuff, which I think is very important." The song was co-written with Johnny Marr, who also played guitar on it, and made the U.K. Top 30.
"Cindy of a Thousand Lives" is one of Bragg's most beautiful songs with its driving acoustic guitars and layers of sonic wash, while "You Woke Up My Neighborhood" is a jaunty, country-tinged tune co-written with Peter Buck from R.E.M. Singer Michael Stipe joins in on harmonies. He and Buck also appear in the video for the song.
Bragg delivers a wonderful version of the Fred Neil classic "The Dolphins," a song which has been covered by the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Tim Buckley and Richie Havens, as well as new wave stalwarts The The. Bragg's take ranks right up there with the best of them.
Don't Try This at Home, his sixth album in just over eight years, would prove another modest hit of sorts for Bragg, but would also be his last album for five years. He would re-emerge in 1996 with the fantastic William Bloke.
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