on 12 October 2000
The Pogues third album grabs you by the scruff of the neck and forces you down the pub the second you put it on. MacGowan takes us on a journey from London to Ireland to New York to God knows where, stopping at every boozer on the way.
The Pogues really found their feet on this record without losing a drop of the alcohol-induced rawness that made them one of the few real live bands of the eighties. The opening (title)track has Shane singing of God and death in a way that makes you want to waste all your money and shout 'fuck you', with a tune that gets in your head and stays there. The 'Turkish Song of the Damned' is full of spectral imagery, a tale of dead sailors and a wailing old woman. The Pogues give it a taste of the East but end with a rousing, punk-injected Irish jig, All this, apparently inspired by a German fan mispronouncing 'The Turkey Song' by The Damned.
'Bottle of smoke' flies along with all the pace of a Cheltenham gold cup winner. A day at the races pissed up and pissed off until it romps home at twenty-fucking-five to one. Marvellous.
Next comes 'Fairy Tale of New York'; drugs, booze and broken hearts in an Irish-American Christmas card, guaranteed to make you laugh and cry at the same time, possibly the best Christmas song ever written.
Beautifully written by Phil Chevron, 'Thousands Are sailing' tells of the Irish leaving for America full of hope and fear. It's about leaving the place you love and the loneliness of a man far away from home. MacGowan's emotive rendition makes this the highlight of the album.
'Fiesta' is a shambolic extravaganza of a tune: MacGowan, 90mph in pidgin Spanish. To quote the man himself, "It's just about a bunch of wankers going to Spain in the Summer".
'Medley' starts with Terry Woods dueting with MacGowan on 'The Recruiting Sergeant', making yet another traditional song their own. Throwing themselves head-first into the instrumental 'Rocky Road To Dublin' and rounding it all off with Shane not stopping for breath on 'Galway Races'.
On 'Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six'. Woods's lament builds into MacGowan's ballad of justice and brutality, 2 songs that manage to capture a fearful (close to home)reality.
'Lullaby of London' is a song that gives you butterfly guts whenever you hear it. Yet another MacGowan original, poetic and beautiful. 'Sit Down By The Fire' is a rampant jig about the telling of ghost stories to your kids, with the vintage refrain 'Goodnight and God bless, now fuck off to bed'.
'The Broad Majestic Shannon' is a song of Shane's lost Tipperary childhood and happy times now gone forever, and virtually rounds off an album of beautifully written songs, some played to touch your heart, others to kick you squarely in the bollocks, but none are forgettable. The final track 'Worms' has Andrew Rankine sounding like he's singing from the bottom of a well. It sums up the dark yet comic side of the album and, indeed, the band.
on 22 November 2007
In 1987, Shane MacGowan was a brilliant man in a hurry. The Pogues were his second group, and he was hoping not to repeat the mistakes of first combo the zesty but peripheral Nips. His big idea, to mix the Irish folk music with which he'd grown up with the punk energy that had fired his soul as a teenager, was a magnificent one. Record company wrangles, however, had stopped the group putting anything out for over a year and Shane's wholehearted commitment to the rock'n'roll lifestyle meant he was on a short fuse.
Happily, before his strength gave out he led the brilliant Pogues to produce their masterpiece If I Should Fall From Grace With God. The hiatus in the band's recording career just meant that they had amassed better songs, and constant touring to keep them in readies had made them tighter than a bluebottle's arse. Their third album benefited from an openness to other traditions (not to mention the songwriting talent of fellow Pogues Finer, Chevron and Woods) without losing the passion the Pogues had always channelled through the Irish music of MacGowan's forbears.
So - here we have blistering pop brilliance, defiant political belligerence, lurching hurdy-gurdy, sweeping romance, cosmopolitan swing, bilious nostalgia, frenetic foul-mouthed bombast, Mardi Gras mayhem and much, much more. Everyone knows the beautiful `Fairy Tale of New York', featuring the pitch-perfect Kirsty MacColl, but only arguably is it the best song on this album. You owe it to yourself to hear the rest and decide for yourself.
This expanded edition has extra tracks, including `The Irish Rover' and `The Rare Auld Mountain Dew' recorded with the Dubliners.
I've been a Pogues fan for 20 years now, listen to them pretty much every day and have lost count of the number of times I've seen them live. The Pogues do not conform and have a fierce rebellious streak that is tinged with cheeky mischief and outright drunken beligerance. What a refreshing change from the mechanical music product culture of today. This album became an instant classic when it was released in early 1988 and for good reason: the songs are crackers and are the usual blend of traditional songs revived and reinvigorated by thr Booze Brothers, original songs by the one and only Shane MacGowan and a few pearls from the other boys. The poetic lyrics coupled with the magnificent musicianship make it an experience to savour and each listen reveals the subtlety and delicacy of the arrangement. The only donkey on the whole album is Sit Down By The Fire as it seems rushed and Shane can't be bothered to sing it properly but even that has a certain charm. The stand-out songs for me are the joyful Broad Majestic Shannon, the embittered Thousands Are Sailing, the riotously sinister Turkish Song Of The Damned and the immortal Fairytale Of New York.
The remastered version (which I bought to replace the original CD, which I bought to replace the original LP!) featuring a few classic extras, including the magnificent collaborations with the Dubliners for The Irish Rover and Mountain Dew, just make it all the better and confirm this album as the key Pogues album to own. It catches the boys at their productive zenith where they are still creating great music and they haven't begun the decline that clearly showed on Peace & Love. More than anything, it sounds like they are having a ball.
Some sensitive listeners might not like a couple of the songs, especially Bottle Of Smoke, for the high expletive count, but that would be like criticising a great painting because a few of the brush strokes are a bit too heavy. Give yourself a treat and order a copy now.
on 5 December 2004
So, the Pogues build on the sound of their first two albums - inviting producer Steve Lillywhite along for the ride - and producing their ultimate pop album in the process. This is the Pogues the way people like to remember them... drunken Irish caricatures who fused traditional Celtic elements with the sound of punk rock, poetic lyrics, and more blue language than a Tarantino monologue. It still sounds great, something I marvel at every time I go back to this record, safe in the knowledge that this music will sound just as great in another fifteen years. It's a testament to all concerned, with MacGowan writing some his best compositions alongside great musicians like Andrew Ranken, Spider Stacey, James Fearnley, Terry Woods, Jem Finer and Phillip Chevron, not to mention the influence of Lillywhite, who brings along the same production magic that worked so well for artists like U2, Morrissey and XTC.
This is the sound and style that the Pogues had been leading up to, already appearing on Top of the Pops with the Dubliners to perform the Irish Rover and getting some great notices for their previous album, the Costello produced classic Rum Sodomy & the Lash, but this seemed to go further, making the Pogues sound relevant to even mainstream radio stations, but without that nagging feeling of compromise. It's as if the band actually set out to make a more commercial record; so naturally the whole thing (melody, lyrics, instrumentation and production) have been lovingly put together and, as a result of this, the whole thing just flows perfectly to create a great listening experience that never feels laboured. For me, every song remains an absolute joy, from the title track that kicks things off (with it's potent and poetic depictions of a Spanish civil war battle ground, infused with furious instrumentation and those trademark, screaming vocals) to that perennial yuletide favourite, Fairytale of New York.
Along with the storming ode to Costa-del-excess that is Fiesta, If I Should Fall From Grace and Fairytale show the Pogues at their polished best... so, if you like these three tracks you will undoubtedly love the rest of the album. There's no filler here. It's as if Lilywhite and the band have taken everything that was great about those first two Pogues albums (Red Roses for Me is an absolute must!), cleaned them up, re-worked the arrangements and cranked up the levels so not only is the whole thing a joy to listen to, but it also makes a great party album (...particularly songs like Bottle of Smoke, South Australia and the above-mentioned Fiesta). MacGowan's writing was becoming more and more confident and evocative, even rivalling his old mate Nick Cave on tracks like Turkish Song of the Damned (in which Shane seems to be going for a personal best on the 'profanity-meter'), Fairytale of New York (a Christmas song that cuts through the schmaltz and shows the festive season to be the hellish living death that it really is), The Broad Majestic Shannon (which has a melody lifted from Fairytale and was supposed to be the follow up single... until the suits at Stiff records stepped in) and of course, the antagonistic Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six.
This is easily one of the most important songs in the Pogues back-catalogue, beginning as it does with Terry Woods' plaintive and poetic composition The Streets of Sorrow, which is more in tune with the traditional folk of people like Christy Moore (who has covered the song) and Ralph McTell, before an escalating drum beat and quickly strummed acoustic guitar leads us effortlessly into the MacGowan penned punk/folk/rant The Birmingham Six, which takes the titular issue head-on with confrontational, anti-establishment lyrics ("there were six men in Birmingham, in Guildford there's four, they were picked up and tortured and framed by the law... and the filth got promoted, while they're still doing time, for being Irish in the wrong place and at the wrong time"), which saw the song banned by the BBC (...which may still be in place to this day). The fact that this song seems to be missing from this re-mastered addition is criminal... let's just hope it's some 'editorial' mistake.
The integration of the different band members is here stronger than ever (Rum Sodomy & the Lash seemed to be dominated by MacGowan, whilst follow up album Peace and Love would be a much messier affair), with MacGowan writing three classics by him self as well as co-writing with Jem Finer on at least four of the standout tracks included herein. Much more surprisingly, we have the Phillip Chevron composition Thousands are Sailing, which adds a touch of contemporary power pop into the Pogue folk mix (sounding like the Cranberries or U2 if they'd been fronted by MacGowan). The song has a strong sense of evocation and a great chorus ("thousands are sailing across the western oceans, to the land of opportunity, that some of them will never see..."), whilst Chevron would go on to pen the best song on Peace and Love - that other Kirsty MacColl duet Lorelei - which made it all the more heartbreaking that Chevron didn't follow up the Pogues with a solo album.
Though I've always preferred the first two Pogues albums for their rawness and their undiluted sense of energy, I do love this particular album, which features some of the band's very best compositions and is easily the best introduction to their music. After this, the band would succumb to personal problems that would seriously affect their next two albums, Peace and Love and the Joe Strummer produced Hell's Ditch. This great re-issue (every Pogues album re-released with relevant b-sides and a re-mastered sound!!) is a perfect addition to any record collection (though those of us who already have the original CD release - which did include Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six - may be less inclined to make the purchase). At any rate... at this current price, who's complaining?
on 21 July 2010
For a brief second the world was the Pogues' oyster, or so it seemed. A Christmas hit, a top ten 10 album, a sell-out tour, popularity in America; it was all there. Of course they ballsed it up, was there ever any doubt? I went to see them (for the last time) at the Town and Country (as it was then called) in Kentish Town when they toured this album and, though still a great show, it was obvious that MacGowan had become a parody of himself and, frankly, looked a bit bored. But it was great while it lasted.
This is a fine album. The addition of a couple of musicians (good ones too), plus a `big-name' producer, makes for a fuller, deeper sound which, while it may not have the punky feel of the first two albums, more than makes up for it with the quality of the songs.
The first three tracks charge into your living room and bash you over the head with a tea-tray, no bad thing, and then they follow it up with `that' Christmas number, a true classic. RIP Kirsty. There's very little that's weak, `Sit Down By The Fire' doesn't do much for me, but the rest are terrific. `Lullaby Of London' and `The Broad Majestic Shannon' find MacGowan at his most sentimental, but it's a `good' sentimental rather than a `wrinkle face in horror' sentimental.
The best song, in my opinion, is Phillip Chevron's `Thousands Are Sailing', a tale of the Irish diaspora; lyrically superb and a lovely tune - what more could you ask for?
And that was it. There's a couple of worthwhile songs on their later albums but the first three are really all you need.
I've just re-discovered this album after seeing the video "fairytale of New York" on the telly. I'd forgotten how good the music is! uplifting, fun and politically powerful, a farcical observation of life.
The Pogues music has been categorized in the past as Punk/Folk, which I think is a bit harsh, they're not Punk! they have just brought folk music in line with the modern world and have made the music appealing to all generations.
This album displays the excellent writing skills of Shane MacGowan & Jem Finer and the musical talents of the band and is in my opinion the best collection of the Pogues music on one album.
The lyrics of most of the tracks are printed in the booklet, read along as you listen, it's a real eye opener, and a lot of fun!
on 13 July 2001
It's quite possible that my life might have turned out very differently if it hadn't been for the Pogues. This album did two very important things for me at one of the most formative stages of my adolescent life. First of all, it made the hitherto missing connection between the Irish folk-ballads that I'd been brought up with as a child, sung by various friends and relations, and the world in which I was growing up, with all its confusions of sights, sounds, feelings and beliefs. And secondly, most of its songs got banned, on the strength of MacGowan's (entirely justified) rant about the Birmingham Six, which forced me to open my eyes that little bit wider to the way society was going in the mid-1980s, and what really was important. Now, as a confirmed folk-rock-loving, Celtic mythology-addicted, possibly slightly drink-addled left-winger, this album still has all its magic from those far distant days, and has lost none of its punch. I shall be forever indebted to Shane MacGowan, the original "ugly bloke with a talent", to Philip Chevron for producing the entrancing "Thousands are Sailing", and of course to the late great Kirsty MacColl for doing her bit to prove that there is still more to Christmas than Sir Cliff Richard. Here's mud in your eye!
Released early in 1988, `If I should fall from grace with God' was the third and best album from The Pogues. Bursting with energy and a riotous self-confidence, it's imbued with a defiant individualism a world away from today's over-produced synthetic music-industry `product'.
Almost everyone will know `Fairytale of New York', a duet between Shane McGowan and the melodious Kirsty McColl, but this album is full of memorable songs. The fast-paced title-track-opener; the bitter `Thousands are Sailing' about Irish emigration westwards; the cracking `Turkish Song of the Damned' and `Bottle of Smoke' shot through with drunken obscenities ("Come on, yer bastaaards...") are all high-octane numbers with the band on top form.
Owing as much to the Brit-Punk genre of the 1970s/80s as to trad-Irish music, the Pogues were very much a phenomenon of their time with a definitive London-urban sound. Another reviewer has written "This is a dangerous album...when I listen to it, it makes me want to smash a bottle over somebody's head". I saw The Pogues at Brixton Academy in 1988 and their stage presence had such energy it literally caused a riot, the gig being prematurely terminated by the intervention of a large number of police attempting to save the venue from destruction, such was the effect of the performance on a live audience. IISFFGWG sees the Pogues at the top of their game, a shooting star at its brightest before the burn-out which began to show on the disappointing follow-up `Peace and Love' (partly redeemed on the later `Hell's Ditch' but never fully restored).
Extras on the `Remastered & Expanded' release include `The Irish Rover' and `The Rare Auld Mountain Dew' recorded by an enlarged musical ensemble with The Dubliners.
on 14 January 2008
The Pogues third album was released early 1988 after `Fairytale of New York' made them the toast of the World Christmas 1987. More consistent in arrangement than the previous two albums `Red Roses for Me' and `Rum, Sodomy and the Lash' it suffers slightly from the polished production which diminishes some of the `Ragged Glory' they were unleashing night after night in concert.
The role of traditional Irish music is on the decline on this album being limited to a medley early in the second side of the original disc. Rather than necessarily be a policy decision it was possibly more down to the standard of song Shane MacGowan was writing at this stage. As well as `Fairytale of New York' and the title track `Turkish Song of the Damned', `Bottle of Smoke', `Sit Down by the Fire' and `The Broad Majestic Shannon' all sit well with the best MacGowan songs. Other Pogues were also starting to write at this point and although most of these are intros/outros which appear more to do with publishing points, Philip Chevron wrote the fantastic MacGowanesque `Thousands are Sailing'.
`If I Should Fall From Grace with God' sees The Pogues on top of the world and makes a perfect trilogy with `Red Roses for Me' and `Rum, Sodomy and the Lash'. It's the sort of album that makes people of other than Irish extraction say `Grand'.
on 11 April 2007
Just a quicky - Amazon's track listing above isn't correct, as at 11th April 07. I've just received the album from Amazon, and am pleased to say that "Streets Of Sorrow/Birmingham Six" is on the album. "South Australia" is still track no. 19, but not repeated in track 7.