Broke down and replaced my original five classic Pogues albums with the reissues put out by Rhino, circa 2004. Whoa, what a difference. The bonus tracks are nice, pleasant additions to the oeuvre, but the sound quality of the songs I know so well is the real notable difference. The original discs sound was quite muddy, the Rhino reissues are much, much brighter, and individual instruments are discernible. Whoo hoo! Thanks, Rhino.
“Red Roses for Me” (The Pogues)
“Rum Sodomy & the Lash” (The Pogues)
“If I Should Fall from Grace with God” (The Pogues)
“Peace and Love” (The Pogues)
“Hell’s Ditch” (The Pogues)
Awesome. The Pogues have been in my personal musical pantheon since I picked up a vinyl copy of If I Should Fall From Grace From God, and referred to it as, “If I Should Fall From God With Grace” in public, building that title into a poem, lost to the ages. Blame the inebriants. I turned out to have picked up on a wavelength that paralleled my own predilections: literate, punky folk with an Irish bent. This is not trad Irish, this is not Radio Clash, this is The Pogues. How can you go wrong with a band who originally titled themselves Pogue Mahone which translates from Gaelic to “Kiss my arse”…
In retrospect, If I Should Fall was The Pogues last great album, but there are good songs on both the releases that followed (Peace and Love and Hell’s Ditch). I wore the grooves out, playing these albums again and again, slurping beer, whiskey and wine.
Of their other great album, Rum, Sodomy & The Lash, I’m copping Mark Deming’s review because I’m feeling suddenly reticent:
“I saw my task… was to capture them in their delapidated glory before some more professional producer f—ked them up,” Elvis Costello wrote of his role behind the controls for the Pogues’ second album, Rum Sodomy & the Lash. One spin of the album proves that Costello accomplished his mission; this album captures all the sweat, fire, and angry joy that was lost in the thin, disembodied recording of the band’s debut, and the Pogues sound stronger and tighter without losing a bit of their edge in the process. Rum Sodomy & the Lash also found Shane MacGowan growing steadily as a songwriter; while the debut had its moments, the blazing and bitter roar of the opening track, “The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn,” made it clear MacGowan had fused the intelligent anger of punk and the sly storytelling of Irish folk as no one had before, and the rent boys’ serenade of “The Old Main Drag” and the dazzling, drunken character sketch of “A Pair of Brown Eyes” proved there were plenty of directions where he could take his gifts. And like any good folk group, the Pogues also had a great ear for other people’s songs. Bassist Cait O’Riordan’s haunting performance of “I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day” is simply superb (it must have especially impressed Costello, who would later marry her), and while Shane MacGowan may not have written “Dirty Old Town” or “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” his wrought, emotionally compelling vocals made them his from then on. Rum Sodomy & the Lash falls just a bit short of being the Pogues best album, but was the first one to prove that they were a great band, and not just a great idea for a band.
Too bad I never saw them perform live in their glory, the one time I had tickets (at the late, lamented Liberty Lunch in Austin), I got too drunk on Bushmills, and slept past the festivities.
The liner notes of the reissues contain poems and essays by friends of the band like Steve Earle and Tom Waits, and description of how Alex Cox, recent auteur of Repo Man, volunteered to make a music video of “A Pair of Brown Eyes“, seen here sans audio track due to “copyright complaint” or some such bullshit. A shame, as this is an excellent little film.
Can you tell I’ve tippled?