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Patchy follow up to If I Should Fall from Grace...
on 6 February 2006
Following the success of their 1987 album If I Should Fall from Grace with God, The Pogues decide to re-enlist the skills of producer Steve Lilywhite, whilst continuing the more mainstream assimilation of their sound following that perennial yuletide smash Fairytale of New York. The only problem was, the band were falling apart... with many squabbles relating to the distribution of royalties and song writing credits, and MacGowan reportedly disappearing into the bottom of a glass. The songs here are certainly not as strong as those on Red Roses for Me, Rum Sodomy and the Lash and If I Should Fall From Grace..., with the band largely cannibalising their own back catalogue, whilst simultaneously taking their new found fondness for radio friendly pop into the realms of anonymity.
It's not completely worthless, but arriving on the back of their (then) greatest single and three albums that still stand up to this day, Peace and Love is patchy at best and cringe-worthy at worst. Things seemed doomed from the outset with jazz-tinged instrumental Gridlock, which is fine, if you haven't already heard the jazz-tinged Metropolis from the album that came before (they're essentially the same song!!). We then move into White City, which is a nice piece of MacGowan by numbers, with the Celtic influence apparent alongside the power-pop production. It's one of the standouts of the album, and probably wouldn't have seemed out of place on Rum Sodomy... barring the over-production. Young Ned of the Hill is a change of pace, a Terry Woods song with a stronger traditional influence than any Pogues song before, with some fine instrumental touches (banjo, drums, tin-whistle) and a nice confrontational lyric.
Both Cotton Fields and Blue Heaven are dead spots (as far as I'm concerned), with the former sounding like a piece of self-parody that probably would have felt more at home on a Popes album, whilst the latter, with it's calypso/bossa-nova rhythms and holiday camp sing-along chorus feels completely wrong for the band who'd previously given us the storming re-interpretations of the likes of The Auld Triangle, The Gentleman Soldier and The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. Things finally pick up with Jem Finer's great MacGowan-style ballad Misty Morning, Albert Bridge, which could easily be ranked amongst earlier joys like Kitty, A Pair of Brown Eyes and the Broad Majestic Shannon. It's a short lived peak, however, with subsequent songs like Down All the Days (a biographical look at the life of Irish artist Christy Brown - see My Left Foot - which comes across as crass and patronising, with dull lyrics, dodgy sound-effects and a weak melody) and USA (which is very 80's, has a melody that sounds like a slowed down take on the earlier Cotton Fields, and shows MacGowan attempting an unconvincing Nick Cave style growl) really standing as some of the worst material the Pogues have ever produced.
Other standouts include Lorelei - Philip Chevron's great melding of the Pogues more familiar sound with an almost U2/Cranberries style power pop - which has a great melody, affecting lyrics and backing vocals from the late Kirsty McColl, Boat Train, which comes close to the classic Pogues sound of Rum Sodomy..., Night Train to Lorca, which overcomes the fact that it sounds exactly the same as Turkish Song of the Damned from If I Should Fall..., and the closing track, London You're a Lady, which, along with Boat Train and White City represents MacGowan at his best (both in the writing and performance) in terms of this particular album.
A lot of the vocals are handled by other members of the band - with many reporting that MacGowan was often too out of it to perform, meaning that Terry Woods, Phillip Chevron and Daryl Hunt all had to take over the vocal duties on a number of tracks - whilst the integration of the different styles and genres (including jazz, pop, calypso and rock) alongside the classic Pogues sound is considered by many (including MacGowan, according to his A Drink with Shane... book) to be the beginning of the end. Peace and Love is certainly a step down for the band following those three great albums that came before, with the group dismissing Lillywhite for their next album (and MacGowan's last with the band) Hell's Ditch, in favour of former clash frontman Joe Strummer. Peace and Love is a patchy and disappointing album (for me), though is one that I would still recommend to people who already have the first three definitive albums, but still want to hear more!!