Publication: New Jersey Online
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By: Scott Brodeur & Scott Hersey

scott h

The Pogues still sound like they just got up from a long afternoon at the tap to stumble onstage for a set. But on Pogue Mahone, the band's second studio album since the departure of singer/guiding force Shane MacGowan, they don't sound like they're on the verge of passing out anymore.

Is that a good thing? It depends on what you want from The Pogues. While the band's famously slurry barroom mix of punk-Irish-folk-country shows up on the opening jig "How Come" and on the rowdy, honky-tonk "Bright Lights," among others, most of the 13 songs on "Pogue Mahone" add a slightly tighter, more radio-friendly sound to the band's repertoire.

And while he can clearly rip it up, new singer Spider Stacy adds something completely different to the Pogues' mix: a wistful, even tender sense of romantic longing that shows up on songs like "Anniversary" and "Love You to the End," both sweet duets with the talented Debsey Wykes.

Tender love songs from The Pogues? It may sound out of character, but it works with the band's rawness. And it helps make up for the slight power loss caused by the personnel changes--let alone advancing age and the toll taken by years of heavy drinking.

On Pogue Mahone, The Pogues don't rock quite as hard as past days. But despite some minor changes, The Pogues remain The Pogues, adding new wrinkles to their sound without changing the essential character. And they still make me want to be at that tap, too, sharing a pint and singing along.

"I still can't get past thinking, 'What would this song sound like with Shane singing?'" scott b

MacGowan's lurking shadow remains hard to flee. It's been a few albums, but I still can't get past thinking, "What would this song sound like with Shane singing?"

It's not that Spider Stacy doesn't have his own character; he does. But MacGowan--with all his storied imperfections--was The Pogues. In many cases, those very imperfections gave the band its grimy but alluring soul.

On Pogue Mahone, I find myself moving beyond missing MacGowan's charmingly muttered vocals. I also miss his songwriting. Granted, MacGowan never wrote 100 percent of the albums, but his contributions often turned out to be the best tracks.

The most fun listens on this record are Bob Dylan's "When the Ship Comes In" and "How Come" from the shared pen of Ronnie Lane and Kevin Westlake. That's not a good sign. Sure, there is some lusty, revved-up fun on here, but it just doesn't sound as inspired anymore.

scott h

It's easy to agree with you on the power loss without Shane. They don't have quite the same lusty appeal anymore. But I disagree with you about the songs.

I find this new side of the Pogues, with these new country-type songs, very interesting. And the rockers still sizzle, albeit with a slightly different vibe. I may not be listening to the band for exactly the same reasons. But I'm still going to be listening.

"I may not be listening to the band for exactly the same reasons. But I'm still going to be listening."
scott b

The post-Shane, post-Steve Lillywhite Pogues are still looking for their voice as the variety of songwriter credits on this album will attest. The band may eventually emerge with a consistent and likable sound that is distinctly theirs. But for now, things are still inconsistent and murky.

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