Tooth & Nail
Tooth & Nail is Billy Bragg’s first studio album in five years, and the self-defined anticapitalist “sherpa of heartbreak” comes through with yet another poetic powerhouse. Honest and authentic, Bragg is able to laugh at himself and clear away the dust in our eyes that cloud visions of a better future.
Though toned down a bit from previous albums and the 2003 song “Price of Oil”—about the U.S. invasion of Iraq—Tooth & Nail bangs out some thoughtful reflections on the planet’s state of affairs. On “January Song,” Bragg croons, “Politicians selling freedom . . . ask him what he wants to be free from, answer don’t make any sense.” In the same song, Bragg points to the sense of being overwhelmed we may often feel in a digital and machine-paced society: “I’m so tired of being wired.”
The song “Handyman Blues” is classic Billy Bragg in the vein of “Must I Paint You a Picture?” It comes off like a peek into the singer’s innermost thoughts and feelings: “Don’t be expecting me to put up shelves or build a garden shed, but I can write a song that tells the world how much I love you instead.”
And if the Occupy movement hadn’t been squashed, the ninth cut on Tooth & Nail would probably be sung today in Zuccotti Park: “There will be a reckoning for the peddlers of hate, who spread their poison all across this estate, and a reckoning too for the politicians who left us to this fate—there will be a reckoning.” All of this and Bragg pulls off a lovely whistle solo, too.