OFF THE RECORD: DON'T GIVE UP THE GHOST
Every time you get to doubting Shane MacGowan he comes right back at ya with another gem. When we heard about the former lead Pogue's return to London from Dublin for a St. Patrick's night performance with his new band The Popes, the initial reaction was oh no, not again.
But the reviews from the overseas music press, which can nine out of ten times be counted on to be hostile towards Mr. MacGowan, have been unbelievably complimentary.
The most adoring of these reviews came from Gavin Martin, writing in London's New Musical Express, who wrote that MacGowan was "back in top form" with a band and a style reminiscent of the days of the London punk scene and Shane's first band, The Nips (originally called the Nipple Erectors). "Perhaps during the years of Poguemocracy Shane lost his grip on the musical steering wheel," wrote Martin, "but there's little doubt his new band sees the world the way he does...More pared, more primal than The Pogues, The Popes are that rebel punk folkabilly thing at full throttle, the missing link between Shane's juvenile punk past with The Nips and his still wired, unhinged vision of the present."
The material these days incorporates some of MacGowan's old punkabilly greats from the Nips era, such as 'King of the Bop,' with Pogues songs such as 'Sally MacLennane,' 'Streams of Whiskey,' and, of course, 'Fairytale of New York' (for which he was joined onstage by Nick Cave). The reports say that there are several new, quality songs too: 'Church of the Holy Spook,' 'That Woman's Got Me Drinking' and a waltzing love song called 'Handbag.'
"This was much more than a St. Patrick's Day piss-up," concludes NME. "MacGowan's back to basics career assessment ranks with Dylan's World Gone Wrong as an affirmation that his past, the London-Irish-punk-vision-thing is still as vital and vibrant as ever. This stuff is too good to fade away without a fight. MacGowan knows it; soon everyone else will too."
Wow. How's that for an endorsement?
The papers are full of gossip about Shane these days, particularly surrounding the work being done on his solo album. Reportedly he and the Popes are working away at a studio in Dublin. All sorts of guest musicians have been spotted playing with Shane in the studio -- reports have listed Van Morrison, Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, and, in what seems to be a very strange rumor, guest guitar work from Johnny Depp, the actor.
There is also talk of a long-overdue biography on the band. Both B.P. Fallon and Ian O'Doherty are said to be working on books.
As for The Pogues, or what's left of them, they are just about wrapping up their U.S. tour. As said here two weeks ago, they played a hell of a show in New York just before St. Pat's. But as for the two new members, we've been able to get an I.D. on only one of them -- the accordionist and replacement for James Fearnley, a young guy by the name of Ray McAnally. The even younger guy who replaced Pogue veteran Terry Woods on mandolin and banjo is anonymous to even the band's record company people -- nobody there could tell us who the mystery stagehand was. Doesn't matter -- he played well anyway.
And to wrap up the Pogues coverage, we were dying to know the opinion
of this column's most persistent correspondent, Dan (No Relation) Rohan.
We know you were too, so here are some of Dan Superfan's comments, from
his latest fax: "I think it's time for the lads to pack it in. Spider (Stacy)
just can't carry the band. Maybe they should reassess what they're going
to do in the future. One possibility -- a Rogues cover band." There you
have it folks. Only one question for Mr. Rohan -- How do you reassess something
that's in the future? Thanks anyway.
Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.