`Life's a Riot with Spy vs. Spy' screams for attention with the same originality today as it did in 1983. The `Urban' folk music of Billy Bragg has never gone out of fashion, it was famously, never in fashion and this debut album is a timeless reminder of the electric troubadour who would later dub himself `Johnny Clash' arrived fully formed like the `Milkman of Human Kindness' personified.
The songs still stand up today particularly the classic `New England', The Busy Girl Buys Beauty', `Lovers Town Revisited' and `To Have and To Have Not' which is unfortunately as relevant now as it was twenty five years ago. That these seven songs were put out on `Utility' as the last defining act of Charisma Records before being assimilated into a major label shows the spirit of the time and I'm not convinced an act as unique as Billy Bragg would ever get out of the endless pages of MySpace these days.
The bonus disc adds to the beauty of the album with `A13' and the John Cale cover `Fear is a Man's Best Friend' being rescued from BBC sessions. Songs that failed to make the cut such as `Speedway Hero' are possibly too derivative to have been issued initially but the passage of time makes these essential listening. The original takes of `The Cloth' and `Strange Things Happen' are again essential, showcasing the drum machine Billy initially dueted with under the stage name `Spy vs. Spy'.
If I had to make a criticism of this re-issued classic it would be the re-mix of Barney Bubbles artwork which was a work of art and a classic design, the perfect wrapper to the perfect sampler.