The 7th and final studio album by the world's greatest band, the 2nd post MacGowan album, is very ordinary indeed.
Many said the Pogues couldn't cut the mustard without their ramshackled genius of a frontman Shane MacGowan, and this effort, along with Waiting For Herb, proves them right.
Things get off to a promising start however. The first three tracks are a welcome return to the rollicking punk stylings that made them so great. "How Come", a Ronnie Lane cover, is a typical example of the Pogues can make a song their own, with infectious tin whistle and banjo riffs punctuating an otherwise very commercial song. "Living In A World Without Her" is a fine original composition that starts off slow then explodes into that unique Irish punk tempo like so many of their songs before. "When The Ship Comes In" a cover version of the classic Bob Dylan yarn, is perhaps the best of the lot. The song is again completely "Pogued", with an excellent instrumental being added along with some excellent accordion bridges. One can only wonder how much better this trio of songs would have been with MacGowan on vocals. However, Spider Stacey's unique voice does the job fine if unspectacularly.
At this point you think "They're back! The Pogues can survive without their creator!" Unfortunately alarm bells begin to ring when the best songs of the album turn out to be the cover versions. The remaining tracks are utterly forgettable, at best acceptable and at worst simply turgid. "Anniversary", a slow ballad, falls somewhere between the two, while "Amadie" shows the Pogues weren't cut out for Cajun music; it just doesn't sound right. "Love You Till The End" is a mainstream love ballad, and is dirge of the highest order. I have time for most of the Pogues' slow numbers, but this is maddeningly dreary. "Bright Lights" is an interesting jazzy number, but it's just not the Pogues. "Oretown" seems to contain no melody and unremittingly maudling lyrics. A very hard listen. "Pont Mirabeau" (a bridge in France apparently) is some translated French poetry. It provides an intersting listen with some beautiful lyrics, but again it is nothing like the quintessential Pogues sound which we all know so well. "Tosspint" is ordinary, with a by-the-numbers pseudo-Irish melody coupled with some frankly disturbing lyrics. "Four O'Clock In The Morning" is a crushingly sad number, referring to drummer Andrew Ranken's wife's death during child birth. Doesn't make for enjoyable listening. "Where That Love's Been Gone" is a very pop-sounding song, completely ordinary , with the Irish instrumentation adding nothing unique. The final Pogues studio song ever(!) "The Sun & The Moon" sounds like a bad Echo & The Bunnymen impersonation, with pretentiously abstract for the sake of it lyrics backed with some jangly acoustic guitar. Not even the Tin-Whistle riff can save it.
This new remastered edition of this album is no better than the original release, due to the paltry offering of just 2 bonus tracks, one of which is an alternate take of the already dreadful "Love You Till End". The other bonus track "Eyes Of An Angel", the B-side to the "How Come" single, sounds very much like "Bright Lights", and whilst being very upbeat is nothing speciall and very mainstream. Some live performances would have been welcome as bonus tracks.
It must be remembered that the current band line-up contained only 3 original members in drummer Andrew Ranken, banjoman Jem Finer and Tin-Whistler turned vocalist Spider Stacey. The new musicians are certainly competent but nothing more. They lacked that trademark Pogues raw energy and flare, and this contributes to the very tidy and ordinary sound of many of the tracks.
So once again the Pogues' venture into different musical genres produces a very mixed bag, with the best tracks being in the raw up-tempo punk style which they had been recording flawlessly for some 11 years previous.
If (somehow) you haven't heard the Pogues before, steer well clear of this poppy mediocrity. It's simply not a patch on their earlier efforts, especially "If I Should From Grace Woth God", where the band reach perfection.
Buy this only if you need it to complete your Pogues collection or if you are curious to hear how the post-MacGowan experiment panned out.
An indifferent work that doesn't deserve to be associated with the Pogues, saved from being awful only by some excellent cover versions.