P olitical turmoil has regalvanised Billy Bragg: a string of recent singles addressing Trump (the rousing Why We Build the Wall), climate change and racists on the streets of Birmingham have been his first new solo releases since 2013. This mini-album collects them and adds two extra songs. Not Everything That Counts Can Be Counted is a finely judged attack on Brexiters' lies and their hidden agenda, while the mournful piano ballad Full English Brexit finds Bragg looking through the eyes of an elderly Leave voter.
Bragg's ad hoc 2011 compilation Fight Songs was subtitled "A Decade Of Downloads", mopping up time-sensitive songs between standard releases. Bridges Not Walls follows a similar brief, except the downloads in question all originate from a single year; this one. Its brief running time over just six tracks harks back to earlier releases such as The Internationale or his debut Life's A Riot, but this is a definitively 2017 soundtrack.
Early in his career, Billy Bragg often seemed like a "singing journalist" in the manner of his sometime role model Phil Ochs, but there was always a strong element of the personal in Bragg's work as well, and it grew stronger with the passage of time. But Bragg never stopped singing about the issues of the day, and in the wake of the election of Donald Trump in America and the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union, he's had plenty of food for thought. Bridges Not Walls is a six-song EP that gives Bragg a much-needed soapbox for songs about the chaotic state of the world in 2017.
A lot has happened politically in the last two years, particularly from a British perspective. First, there was 23rd June 2016 when 51.9% of the participating electorate voted to leave the EU. Then, to top off what can only be described as a tumultuous year, an egomaniacal reality TV star was elected president of the USA. In times of such uncertainty and instability, there's one man who can always be depended on to lend his own distinct view to the situation.