Free of the schnoggered noodle Shane MacGowan, the Pogues march on better than ever: articulate, on-beat and tight -- in the sober sense, for once.
Finally able to explore the range of their musicianship and songwriting abilities, the Pogues prove time and time again on Pogue Mahone that Celtic forms don't have to dull your senses.
Granted, the chord structures don't vary, but the mood, the tempo and the instrumentation can turn a lullaby into a dancefloor slammer -- which is the first thing most people think of when they think of the Pogues.
There's plenty of bounce-happy stompers on this outing, but they aren't what make it stand out.
It's tunes like "Amadie," a Cajun barn-burner that reunites Acadian offspring with the Celtic homeland, full of randy banjo and overdrive percussion, and "Love You 'Til the End," a sweet quasi-rock ballad, a plaintive weepie with soft female harmonies rounding out a potent mix of piano, violin and building guitars.
Every tune glimmers with a subtle sheen that would have been impossible to keep intact under the influence of MacGowan.
MacGowan is under an influence all his own -- one the Pogues clearly don't need to make them stand up, or fall down, as the case may be.
Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.