POGUES ALBUM CAPTURES SPIRIT OF GLORIOUS LIVE CONCERT HERE
JUST over a year ago, the Pogues, in their only St. Louis concert appearance to date, delivered a mesmerizing, brilliant performance that put their first three admittedly good albums to shame. Now, with the release of ''Peace andLove,'' the Pogues have captured on record the glorious sound and spirit of thatshow.
Notice is served right away that this album is something special. DrummerAndrew Ranken, whose playing dominates the band here as never before, sets the stage, playing smoothly swinging rhythms first on his cymbals, then incorporating his snare and finally his full kit before the entire brass section comes in for the hard-as-nails big band riff-and-variations that make up''Gridlock.''
Hold on a second. Swinging? Brass section? Big band? Aren't the Pogues supposed to be an Irish folk-rock band? Well, that's one supposition that is in for a little disturbance on this record. By no means have the Pogues given up on their Irish roots, but they have widened their scope a bit. Hints were dropped on last year's ''If I Should Fall From Grace With God,'' with the introduction of Middle Eastern and jazz influences on a couple of songs. Earlier this year, the Pogues released a 12-inch single, ''Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah,'' which was a driving Motownish rocker. And on ''Peace and Love,'' the Pogues exude the confidence of brilliant musicians who know they are good enoughto play just about anything, and who want to try to do so.
Anyway,''Gridlock'' is a masterly introduction to the glories that lie ahead. Last year on stage, the Pogues seemed to have pulled together from just being leader Shane MacGowan's backup band to being a tight, solid unit. Again, extrapolating from a trend begun on ''If I Should Fall,'' MacGowan's share of the songwriting has fallen to less than 50 percent, as Jem Finer, Terry Woods and Philip Chevron contribute more and more material. MacGowan hasn't lost his touch, however. His lyrics are still the most poetic of the four writers'. The songs work together in interesting ways, a sign perhaps of the band's artistic unity.
''Peace andLove'' is an album about dreams and reality, about the truth of fantasy and thepain of truth. As he has in the past, MacGowan hits the thematic nails as squarely as anyone can. Take a song such as ''USA,'' which contrasts the simplicity of youth with the horrors of adult experience. Nothing goes right for the narrator of this song. ''I found a love/She gave me dreams/She left me drunk/In New Orleans'' is the sum total of happiness allowed him, and that's only in the second verse. By the end of the song, the narrator has got his wish for a heart of stone: ''And now I know/That it's the same/Wherever you go.''
In what may be the finest song on an LP full of wonderful ones, however, the album's closer, ''London You're a Lady,'' also written by MacGowan, offers achance to escape such cynicism in favor of sheer love of experience. Cities have been compared to women before, but never in such concrete and earthy ways. As MacGowan delightfully mixes his metaphors, a portrait emerges of a city worth loving, and by extension a life worth living, despite its faults. The song's fantastic images, of red buses skirting the hem, of bars within the womb, of mad architects and drunken builders, close in on one another and convey a sense of London as a living, breathing entity.
Jem Finer's ''Misty Morning, Albert Bridge,'' probably the most hauntingly beautiful ballad the Pogues have recorded since ''A Pair of Brown Eyes'' four years ago, uses London as a backdrop for a fantasy. Here, MacGowan sings in the voice of a character whose dream is nothing more than a photograph. It's hard to tell whether the photo is actually of the song's narrator, but the sad quality in MacGowan's voice is one that haunts much of the album. The narrator holds onto his dream, although he seems resigned to its never coming true.
In ''Young Ned of the Hill,'' written by longtime Irish folk musician Terry Woods, the subject is the ancient enmity between Irish and English, brought to the fore with curses rained on Oliver Cromwell. The song maintains a bittersweet, nostalgic mood, one not too dissimilar to MacGowan's ''White City,'' which immediately precedes it. Here, the singer mourns the tearing down of a dog racing track in favor of a parking lot. Both songs concern historical changes, and both remember the past as a perfectly beautiful fantasy.
''Peace and Love'' is an album that grabs the listener's attention and holds onto it.
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Great wadges of thanks to Adrian Leach for help with this article.
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