August 24, 2011

I'm Not Looking for A New England

The Guardian's favorite albums reviews hits one of mine: Billy Bragg's Life's a Riot with Spy vs. Spy. 

It helps, of course, that unusually for a polemicist, Bragg was always much more attuned to the mysteries of the human heart than he was versed in political theory. To some critics the love songs made him seem sentimental, but he openly embraced the natural conflict between political and personal on one of the greatest pop songs every written, A New England, and, elsewhere, was able to craft songs of such stark, self-lacerating beauty that they seemed to brook no argument. As he used to joke at gigs, The Man in the Iron Mask was the song that his fiercest, angriest, Trotskyist critics would ask him to play, on the sly.

It goes to one of my aesthetic principles: sentiment that masks truth is horrifying in its dissonance.  But it is the sentiment that reveals the riskier truths of being, the very attachment so feared, so embarrassing, so fragile, so necessary to the worth of human beings, that is the most beautiful thing.


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