POGUES SANS ONSCENITY [sic]
Their latest offering, Pogue Mahone (Gaelic for "kiss my ass"), lacks the amphetamine punch of MacGowan's non-stop obscenities that made the band sound like background music to the musings of a very drunk and confused man.
While MacGowan has moved on to new and different areas in a solo career, the Pogues replaced him with Spider Stacy, whose voice has the same gritty feel, but in a very non-distinct way.
The entire affair begins with "How come," which the Pogues are aiming at a more rock and roll sound than previous attempts. "Living in a world without her" makes the most of a twangy banjo, but it's the use of the whistle and fiddle that really gives this song a melodic punch.
While the Pogues have often garnered comparisons to the Clancy Brothers, they've never made any attempt to prove little but a psychic connection. However, their cover of Bob Dylan's "When the Ship Comes In" is clearly a Clancy derivative not just in tone, but in actual song selection as the brothers covered the same song for Dylan's 30th recording anniversary.
"Anniversary" has the Pogues returning to their own material, and the addition of Debsey Wykes on vocals along with Stacy is reminiscent of earlier material that paired MacGowan with Kristy MacColl. There must be an unspoken rule that says "any band with an accordion has to try its hand at Cajun music," and the Louisiana inflected "Amadie" with its French verse is no exception. Fast and upbeat, despite its lyrical content, it's the Pogue equivalent of a hardcore song.
"Love You Till the End" has the band dropping the banjo, fiddle, accordion, etc., to turn in a very pedestrian love song, replete with the mid 80s gloss that makes this song sound so outdated.
Things return to hootenanny form with "Bright Lights," which sounds like party music for hyper farmers. Think of Lamar Alexander hopping around after an electric shock.
It's tempting to lump "Oretown" in with "Love You Till the End," but the drone "alternative rock" sound of this song is created by an accordion, and what sounds like a synthesizer solo, is actually a whistle. While not a particularly good song, at least it has humanity going for it.
"Point Mirabeau" [sic] is the sort of ballad that you not only expect from the Pogues, but that they do well, utilizing their instrumental arsenal to create a song that is uniquely pleasing to the ear.
The bouncing beat of "Tosspint" rolls forward like an Irish steamroller with its cautionary tale of damnation. Instead of offering fear of eternal torment, though, the band sounds as if it's rejoicing in the thought, laughing right "through the fires of hell."
"Four o'clock in the Morning" is a blues song done with a banjo instead of a guitar, and Uileann pipes instead of guitar solos. The slower pace suits "Where That Love's Been Gone," though, giving the mandolin and violin an opportunity to come through more clearly than their usual breakneck speed allows.
Bringing things to an enfolding conclusion, "The Sun and the Moon" culls some of the best aspects of the album and ties it together with the "laughing at damnation" spirit that the Pogues embody.
Even if Pogue Mahone isn't the most inventive of albums, it'd still be good for your next barn raising, though it might scare the cows.
Copyright 1996, The Santa Rosa Oak Leaf
All rights reserved
Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.