Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Pogues

  • Red Roses for Me [Stiff, 1984] B+
  • Rum Sodomy and the Lash [Stiff, 1985] A
  • Poguetry in Motion [MCA EP, 1986] A-
  • If I Should Fall from Grace With God [Island, 1988] B+
  • Peace and Love [Island, 1989] B
  • Pogue Mahone [Mesa, 1996] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Red Roses for Me [Stiff, 1984]
Having been left tepid by Irish music from the Chieftains to Clannad, I filed this after a token try. Drumbeats or no drumbeats, I figured it was just beyond me. And some of it is--reels that aren't rockin', accents further garbled in the speedfolk rush. But in general this bunch of disaffected limeys, not all of them from the site of the troubles, yoke the indelible bitterness of the Irish horror to a more adaptable punk rage. Tepid it ain't. B+

Rum Sodomy and the Lash [Stiff, 1985]
"And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" comes from Australian folkie Eric Bogle, one of the least commanding singers in any hemisphere you care to name, but its tale of Gallipoli is long as life and wicked as sin and Shane MacGowan never lets go of it for a second: he tests the flavor of each word before spitting it out. I associate this technique with producer Elvis Costello, who probably deserves credit as well for the album's clear, simple musical shape. But none of it would mean much without the songs--some borrowed, some traditional, and some proof that MacGowan can roll out bitter blarney with the best of his role models. Try "The Old Main Drag," about Irish lads tricking, or "The Sick Bed of Cuchulain," about Irish heroes dying. A

Poguetry in Motion [MCA EP, 1986]
Though I could skip the reel and fear this got released Stateside for its upbeat mood, any of the three new Shane MacGowan songs would add something to Rum Sodomy and the Lash. It's not as if upbeat has to mean escapist, or even happy. Just somewhere this side of desperate. A-

If I Should Fall from Grace With God [Island, 1988]
With Steve Lillywhite out to prove he's both a true punk and a true son of Eire, neither pop nor rock nor disco crossover stays these groghounds from the swift accomplishment of their appointed rounds. Lillywhite is so permissive he lets Shane MacGowan slur the words Elvis Costello forced him to enunciate, and at tempos like these you can be sure there are plenty of them. Politics, down-and-outers, New York, the broad majestic Shannon--just don't lose your lyric sheet. B+

Peace and Love [Island, 1989]
After I secured a CD, with both digital definition and the lyric sheet Island pulled from the vinyl correcting their chronic incomprehensibility, this phonogram finally began to make sense to me. But the horns still betoken folk-rockers moving on rather than the brass bands I bet they're supposed to evoke. And the trot convinces me that Shane MacGowan will remain the only Pogue in the down-and-out hall of fame. B

Pogue Mahone [Mesa, 1996] Dud