When singer Shane MacGowan fronted the Pogues, the London-based outfit's mix of traditional Irish music and speedy rock out-rollicked some of the best '80s punk. MacGowan's gruff voice was gritily poetic, his slurred vocals rough-and-tumble and his lyrics (if you could make them out) were among the best of any rock songwriter's.
But since MacGowan's departure five years ago, the Pogues seem a mere ghost of what they once were, and the gaps in on their seventh album seem bigger than the ones between their former frontman's teeth.
Spider Stacey attempts to sing like MacGowan but sounds uncomfortable in the role of barstool romantic. It's only in ballads, such as "I'll Love You 'Till the End," that he relaxes and find a tone of beautiful melancholy.
The music has also lost much of its bite. Some numbers sound almost new age, thanks to an airy whistle, while others sound like dull FM-rock with a dash of Irish flavor. There are a few wily numbers here that work, but there's no substitute for the Pogues' former vitality and recklessness.
Copyright 1996, The Los Angeles Times
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