I ran across Fairytale of New York in the Christmas songs thread. I’ve seen repeated reference to it over the years as a favorite Christmas song. I’ve seen other references to how great the Pogues are, etc.
I’ve listened to them a fair bit, and much as I’ve tried to like them, I just don’t “get” it.
The guy sounds like a drunk who slurs his words (and his tone) all over the place. I can barely guess at what he’s saying, and it’s not because of the Irish accent, it’s because he doesn’t actually enunciate anything. The music itself seems boring - there’s nothing really clever or exciting about it.
I’ve had similar experiences with Irish groups (like the Dubliners) singing Irish Rover (though come to think of it, that may have been the Dubliners with the lead singer of the Pogues).
I really like the Celtic Punk thing they were doing on Red Roses For Me and Rum Sodomy and the Lash. Everything after that kind of lost me. If I Should Fall From Grace With God had it’s moments, but they became jazzy in a way that I didn’t think fit them very well.
Those first two albums, though, were pretty rousing.
Also - I have this horrible confession: for me, Ween’s Blarney Stone does a better job creating the same moment that the Pogues seem to be trying to create. And I am fully aware that Blarney Stone is satire. But every time I hear it I want to go get smashed on Irish, get in a brawl, and then get laid afterwards.
I think “you had to be there”. They were incredibly successful at merging Irish folk music with the whole post-punk thing attitude going on in the mid-eighties. Basically, they were treated like a punk band (and had the attitude of one as well) which meant a lot of young people got a sample of Irish traditional music which they probably wouldn’t have otherwise back then. They also weren’t “mainstream” which meant a lot back in those days and people, I think, gave them a listen whether they otherwise listened to The Cure, The Clash, U2, Tom Waits, Stranglers, Echo & The Bunnymen, Sisters of Mercy or whatever. “Celtic Punk” is a great label for what they became famous for, haven’t seen that before.
I personally never really fell for them, saw them live once, and while I like Shane McGowan in a vague general sense I just don’t think he sings very well and back then he would pass out on stage more often than not from being so plastered.
Having said that, Fairytale of New York is an absolutely fantastic song.
They were AMAZING live. I saw them with Shane at an outdoor venue in Toronto called Kingswood at Canada’s Wonderland, with Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper opening and Violent Femmes closing. I suspect The Pogues were supposed to go on last, but I doubt Shane would have made it.
The thing about Kingswood was there were seats you paid (too much) for up front, outside of that were the grass seats that were totally cheap. I, of course, as a broke punk kid, sat on the grass. It was a hot, dry day, and the second The Pogues started, everybody in the grass seats started pogoing and moshing, kicking up a massive cloud of dust that gently wafted over to the paid seats for the entire set. Suck it, rich kids.
Second time I saw them was with Joe Strummer singing instead of Shane. Still great, and they whipped off a crazy version of “London’s Calling”.
Yeah, I saw them indoors at a small venue in mid-winter and it was pretty crazy and violent near the stage. As I recall I was more or less sober which of course put a real damper on my appreciation of it. Might have been the tour after Rum, Sodomy & The Lash. But yeah, I never bought any of their records or anything, most of my friends were more into them than I was. I would have loved to see them with Strummer though. I think Elvis Costello married(?) the bass player or something and did some stuff with them as well.
What The Pogues do (or did in their heyday) is no different from what American artists like Uncle Tupelo, The Old 97’s, or Jason & The Scorchers do. They take a folk idiom rooted in the culture of their youth–and an idiom rooted in something a bit more staid and needing to adhere to certain formulae–and they stand it on its head by taking it back to its very roots as music of and by the people.
I’m all for artists getting paid, but I’m very much on the side of Jello Biafra on this one. Using “Just Like Honey” in a car commercial cheapens the cultural impact of that song, which for me personally was immeasurable. Psychocandy was a seminal touchstone of my youth. I don’t begrudge the brothers Reid from making a little cash; I just wish there was a better way for them to do it.