In the 20-plus years since The Pogues started fusing booze-fueled trad Irish music with punk, they’ve evolved from one of the most important rock ’n’ roll bands since The Clash—with early albums produced by Elvis Costello and Steve Lillywhite—to a perennial reunion-tour group. Critics seem to have stopped speculating about the ill health of the group’s alcoholic frontman/principal songwriter, Shane MacGowan, but that’s largely because The Pogues don’t release new music anymore, much to the disappointment of loyal fans like yours truly.
If you also miss those early days of hearing the inebriated genius MacGowan spit his lyrics while the band poured out their punk souls, Rhino Records has a treat for you. The band’s level-headed guitarist, Philip Chevron, has assembled a five-disc box of demos, live performances and other rarities, most of which are previously unreleased. A lot of it is pretty raw, but that’s to be expected. It’s all really great stuff, and very interesting to note the progression of certain songs. For example, Disc 2 contains three generations of The Pogues’ Christmas opus, “Fairytale of New York,” displaying the evolution of MacGowan’s lyric, and the growth of the arrangement from MacGowan’s spare solo demo, to a duet with Cait O’Riordan, and finally a more familiar-sounding rendition with Kirsty MacColl. This compilation is definitely for true fans, but those fans won’t be disappointed.
Must Play: “Maggie May”
Producer: Philip Chevron. Audio restoration: Rob Shread. Mastering: Nick Robbins/Soundmastering Ltd. (London, UK).