You Oughta Know – Cult Classics
The Pogues – If I Should Fall from Grace with God
By Matt Ashworth
It is 3 a.m. and you are passed out on the floor of your living room after drinking pints of Guiness with your three dearest friends all night. In the background you can hear a CD playing that isn’t from your own collection. It sounds Irish, perhaps due to the mandolin, concertina, and other traditional instrumentation. But no Irish Rovers this, you muse. The singer’s raspy, alluring drawl makes him sound as drunk as you are. The sheer punk energy of this music almost makes you want to awake from you drunken stupor and dance vibrantly . . . . well. . . . not quite.
Since you probably won’t remember to ask the next morning, we’ll just go ahead and tell you. You are listening to the Pogues, and if you know anything about anything, you have been listening to them for years, making all this seem like a formality. But in case you haven’t, we’re here to help you out. The Pogues are an excellent Irish folk cum punk-rock band from London that deserves your attention. They sadly disbanded in 1996, but not before presenting some of the best rock music of the last two decades.
If I Should Fall from Grace with God is their awesome 1988 album and the band’s first true success in their attempts to meld traditional Celtic instrumentation and post-punk rock leanings. (Their first two albums, Red Roses for Me, and Rum, Sodomy & the Lash were more exploratory, as the band tried out their blend of instrumentation: concertina, banjo, pipes, guitar, bass, minimal drums, mandolin and the like.) Most all of the songs on ‘Grace from God are originals, but are pleasantly highlighted by winningly unreconstructed folk designs like “The Broad Majestic Shannon” and the title tune. What will make you come back to this anthemic record repeatedly is the pleasant mix of aggressive, celtic-rawk, and sing along ballads. Metropolis is a jazz/swing instrumental and the oddly accented Turkish Song of the Damned is outstanding. Singer Shane McGowan gives us plenty of examples of his booze and cigarette-stained vocals, most notably on “Fairytale of New York”, a fragile piano-and-strings Christmas carol with guest vocals by Kirsty MacColl, daughter of folk titan Ewan MacColl.
So for those of you who are as yet unfamiliar with this outstanding band, I delight in your opportunity to regress through their catalog. If I Should Fall from Grace with God is an excellent starting point. Raise your pint and sing a long.