Despite his fuzzed-out guitar sound, British punk troubadour Billy Bragg is an electric folkie at heart. His songs are shot through with traditional folk verities -- from tributes to political martyrs to more contemporary-minded confessionals about what the modern boy thinks about the modern girl. On 1986's TALKING TO THE TAXMAN ABOUT POETRY, Bragg found a heroic balance that allowed him to meld the personal and social concerns that bedeviled him. The lead track, "Greetings to the New Brunette," is a very amusing portrait of an unambitious couple in love -- with soccer, drinking, unemployment, and each other. Bragg's trenchant lyrical skills are in humorous evidence on "The Warmest Room" ("The wife has three great
attributes/Intelligence, a Swiss army knife, and charm") and more bleakly on "The Home Front," in which a young radical dismisses his country of "clock
watchers, old-timers, window shoppers." Worth the price of admission alone: "Levi Stubb's Tears," both a tribute to the great Four Tops
singer and a moving portrait of rock-'n'-roll's searching emotional comfort.