THE POGUES HAVE PASSED THE TEST OF TIME
"We latched onto something that nobody had done before, but if we hadn't, somebody would have," says Spider Stacy of The Pogues. "It's always a tremendous compliment when someone cites you as an influence."
Strange but true: The Pogues have been around long enough -- longer than anybody would have given them -- to become not only an influence on a mutant strain of folk music (folk-punk) but also to start a new cycle in a career whose main characteristic -- maturity -- would've been unthinkable in the days when their star and chief inebriate, Shane MacGowan, would teeter on the world's stages and barstools.
Shane is gone, and so is his temporary substitute, The Clash's Joe Strummer, to leave Spider as The Pogues' chief spokesperson and The Pogues as a tighter (likely more sober) group than ever before.
"Shane was as much a part of the band as anyone, but we felt if we didn't kick him out we'd be burying him," Spider says regretfully. "That's one of the strengths of the band -- our resilience."
The Pogues' resilience; not MacGowan's. By the time the group sacked him, MacGowan's excesses (and a total disregard for his health) made him look like someone who hadn't made Schindler's List. Without their leading songwriter and the unmistakable slur of his gruff voice, the other Pogues rallied last year to produce their new album Waiting For Herb.
Certainly it's not as distinctive as early albums. Waiting For Herb nonetheless shows that The Pogues' eclecticism came from the whole band, that allows Jem Finer, in particular, his due as a writer and that sees Spider chipping in the jaunty first song, "Tuesday Morning."
The Pogues are now enduring that rite of passage that comes from rebuilding from within. Could it be that time will show The Pogues to be, like The Beach Boys or Kinks or Who, more than the sum of their parts.
"I genuinely believe that The Pogues . . . are The Pogues," he says,
struggling. "It's not for me to answer, because I'm in The Pogues. I wish
you hadn't asked me that, because it's hard to give an objective, clear
concise answer to something that cuts so close to the bone. All I can say
is that we speak for ourselves -- we are what we are."
Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.