POGUE Mahone? That's not an album title. That's a theft of history; a lack of imagination; a lame stab at legitimacy - that's anything but an album title. The Pogues, or what's left of them, should have just simply entitled this latest comeback record as follows - "Will This Do?"
No, sorry lads, it won't.
With this just-released record, Spider Stacey and a host of lesser Pogues (no Terry Woods, no Philip Chevron, no James Fearnley and of course no Shane MacGowan) make a mockery of one of the greatest bands of the past decade by stealing from that band its original name (the short-lived 'Pogue Mahone,' or "kiss my arse" in Gaelic, became 'The Pogues' in 1983 after record company objections).
Stacy & Co. seem to be attempting a statement, as in, we know that MacGowan guy put out earlier this year one hell of a great solo album (entitled The Snake) but we're here to tell you that we're the real thing. We're The Pogues. No, really.
What do they sound like? Like 'New Coca-Cola.' Like Eurodisney. Like the short-lived 'Guinness Light.' These guys even do a Bob Dylan cover ('When The Ship Comes In'), for pete's sake.
First of all, personnel. As stated above, Spider, the man who took over from MacGowan (after the band flirted briefly with Joe Strummer, formerly of The Clash) is at the lead vocals and is still largely unable to write a song (only one of the 13 cuts here is credited to him, and that is co-written with someone else). Andrew Ranken is still on drums, and contributes some songwriting and the occasional vocal. Jem Finer is still on accordion and continues his role as the most prolific lyricist since MacGowan's departure. Darryl Hunt, Cait O'Riordan's replacement all those years ago on bass guitar, is still hanging in and contributes lyrics as well. The rest seem to be drinking buddies from Camden Town.
Essentially, this is a band that has lost its best vocalist (MacGowan), its best lyricist (MacGowan), its second-best lyricist (Phil Chevron), and its most creative and versatile instrumentalist (Terry Woods, with Chevron in at a close second and Fearnley at number three). All is gone, and yet the rest plod on.
They've lost great buckets full of inspiration and talent, but at least they've got plenty of nerve to be carrying on the way they do.
What's most appalling here is the music. When MacGowan quit/was fired from the band in 1991, one of the stated reasons was that the band wanted to delve deeper into 'world music,' continuing the exploration of Eastern and European melodies and rhythms which they started on the last great Pogues record, Hell's Dutch. Naturally, MacGowan's chemically-induced bad behavior was the main factor in the split, but also obvious was the fact that MacGowan wanted to stick with Irish balladeering while the others wanted to get into the 'world music.' This was evidenced by MacGowan's The Snake, an album full of Irish traditional sing-alongs, as well as 1993's Waiting For Herb, the Pogues' first post-MacGowan album, which was a solid and enjoyable world music-y album with a foundation in Irish ballads.
With all this in mind, it would be reasonable to expect the album after Waiting For Herb to continue in this experimental vein. Not so. Pogue Mahone is full of deafeningly dull Irish balladry - if you've heard a bar band in the Bronx doing Waterboys covers, you've heard this already. It's obvious that without Woods, Chevron and Fearnley (who all quit shortly after Waiting For Herb), this band is gone nowhere.
Which isn't altogether terrible - it'd be petty to begrudge anyone the only livelihoods they've ever known. What's so offensive here is the attempt by this motley crew to arrogantly claim rightful ownership to the Pogues legacy, when it's obvious the only action in town is The Snake. In the liner notes, Spider Stacey is even photographed grinning widely, baring his white teeth as if to say - see I've got all mine, unlike that washed-up, gummy MacGowan fella. To that, the response must be, make mine toothless.
Copyright 1995 Irish Voice
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Great wadges of thanks to Adrian Leach for help with this article.
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