You can accuse Bragg of being a politically correct lefty or a musical jack-of-all-styles. You can call him a starry-eyed romantic. You can poke fun at his muddy cockney accent. But you can't, with fairness, deny his talent as one of the most intelligent pop songwriters of our day.
On his sixth album he's eclectic as ever. One tune shows his punk roots, accompanied by a cacophonous electric guitar. Another is a country romp complete with fiddler and mandolin. Strings back a few songs, a sultry trumpet another.
The lyrics are equally varied. One song expresses mushy love, while another sarcastically expresses lust. A somber antiwar song follows snide comments about urban professionals.
Despite his shifty approach, Bragg is consistent in quality. Most of his melodies are bright and memorable; his lyrics include both clever wordplay and rousing political conviction. Bragg dares to be sincere. Yet his self-mocking humor banishes pretentiousness, and his subject matter keeps him up-to-date. "Trust" finds chilling tragedy in people's reckless attitudes toward safe sex.
Don't Try This at Home tackles big issues without ever becoming as self-consciously daunting as U2's new Achtung Baby. Most of Bragg's opus is friendly entertainment for those bored by predictable pop. (Elektra)