Night Music: The Pogues, “Bottle of Smoke”

The departed Philip Chevron and the Pogues were/are terrific players, but it was most often the vocal and lyrical genius of Shane MacGowan that lifted them above the Irish trad bog that enmires many an Irish radio show (I’m looking at you WFUV, all day Saturday and Sunday). Any individual song is great to hear, any live performance is great fun, but soon the very Irishness of it all becomes wearying. But MacGowan never let that happen live, though sometimes the suspense was more about whether he’d fall over before he sang another note or not, and his often excellent songs, while drawing on the sentiment and lyricism of the trad. stuff the band often played, always seemed to amp up the stakes just a bit, so the band’s records remain vital and alive. It was sad when MacGowan left the Pogues, apparently an intervention and a push for self preservation at the same time.

So much talent squandered (or maximized, it’s hard to tell the difference). The Pogues continue to play quite excellently, to this day, but the band that has seemed more essential in its fits and starts has been MacGowan’s outfit, the Popes.

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