Mr. Bragg

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Short List Podcast Weekend Edition: Moby, Crystal Castles, Billy Bragg


Mr. Bragg

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Billy Bragg, with C.R. Avery

Friday, 8 p.m, The Moore, $38

No matter what he does, Billy Bragg will always be seen as an activist-musician- emphasis on the first half of that equation. This ignores the fact that the guy to whom he's most often compared, Woody Guthrie, wrote plenty of songs- some of which Bragg brought to life with Wilco on a pair of acclaimed CDs- about life and love and even flying saucers. It's a point worth recalling as Bragg releases his Mr. Love & Justice, his first album in six years- one that finds its primary inspiration in home and hearth. Bragg's penchant for the personal has been a staple of his repertoire since he surfaced in the early '80s as an angry young man, armed with only an electric guitar. These heart songs are preferable to Mr. Love & Justice's political ruminations, which range from the labored (the anti-war "Sing Their Souls Back Home") to the ill-advised ("The Johnny Carcinogenic Show," an anti-tobacco indictment that might cause you to take up smoking in protest). With soulful Americana backing his cockney bark, songs like "I Almost Killed You" and "M for Me" reveal that Bragg's gift for clever wordplay and catchy tunes is as potent as ever.


Crystal Castles, With dd/mm/yyyy, David Wold, Reflex

Saturday, 9 p.m., $10, All Ages, Chop Suey

Crystal Castles began in late 2003 as a twitchy electronic project for multi-instrumentalist Ethan Kath. By mid-2005, an accidental single catapulted it into a blogospheric frenzy. A random microphone test featuring collaborator Alice Glass eventually ended up on Kath's MySpace page as "Alice Practice." Soon, everybody from Pitchfork to Spin was writing about the duo. Fusing a vintage Atari sound-bank with a warehouse of synths and analog doohickeys, Crystal Castles oscillates between subtle dance music and a sonic explosion of blips and bleeps. The group's rep has been further expanded, thanks to a hefty number of singles and a self-titled debut album, which came out this week. But it's Kath's terrific remixes- for Bloc Party, Klaxons, and Liars- that keep fueling Crystal Castles' buzz.


Moby, With DJ Colby B, Nordic Soul, Bret Law

Sunday, 8 p.m., The Showbox, 21+, $20

Moby's latest release, Last Night, is a return to the dancefloor that birthed him. This is especially true of the tracks that smack of his early-'90s compositions- "Everyday It's 1989" and "The Stars" resemble his rave anthems "Feeling So Real" and "Next Is the E" in their effervescent rhythms and screaming, gospel-like vocals. At other points, the record is a reflection of an endless New York City club crawl across a smorgasbord of musical styles, including hip-hop, ambient soundscapes, and digital disco. "I Love to Move in Here" is a playful Italian house number peppered with a lighthearted rap and the delicate refrain of the title. This rapping, courtesy of Grandmaster Caz, turns up again on "Alice," a track displaying a smooth quality reminiscent of the nonconfrontational, British trip-hop approach to rhymes. "Disco Lies" is a trance-tinged, percolating number hung around the sing-along-able phrase, "How could you lie?" While the first half of Last Night is all about the clubs, the disc slows down considerably, moving toward a minimalist ballad on the title track. This tempo shift is less interesting- but, in Moby's case, more licensing-friendly- than the rest of Last Night. The authenticity of the upbeat numbers is far more genuine and visceral- especially if, like Moby, you want to relive your youthful years all over again.


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