Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Billy Bragg: Workers Playtime [Elektra, 1988]
He's got a way with a tune and even some money. So maybe it's time to wonder why he has such big problems. Why are women always rejecting him? And why are the people always rejecting him? Not completely, of course--he's a modest success. But in both arenas he falls far short of his putative expectations, and I smell a reason in the barely concealed sob he can't get rid of. From unjust justice all the way to hopeless love, the catch in the throat is kind of seductive--until it starts to stink. This is the voice of a man who expects defeat--not only does he feel born to lose, but he doesn't have what it takes to throw a good wake. So why should the working class follow him to the crossroads? Why should Mary? B