Ecstatic and angry. Listening to the Pogues can feel like time spent with a manic personality. Make that a charismatic manic. The fascinating thing is how well that manner is channeled by the music. Surely, the band has had its struggles, particularly with their lead singer, but the art- I could listen to them all day. And have done so. And have been asked to stop, for just an hour… please. Which probably raises some question as to the type of person that responds to their music.
No one raised in any faith who has ever asked questions of that faith has not felt as though they have fallen. Art can be a response to that lapse. So can vice. Both can bring a sense of elation. Art is an attempt to restore or instigate communication with the ephemeral. Surely, the artist appreciates the kindness of audiences, but somewhere along the way, the art takes on a life of its own. Robert Johnson supposedly did the devil’s work and ended up in the ground unmarked, but I doubt the Pogues were thinking of him. In the end, Johnson and the Pogues get closer to heaven than any person has the right, making music that surrounds and glorifies the human experience in all its facets.
For the album cover, the octet is augmented by James Joyce, the patron saint of modern literature. I have no better idea how Joyce would have felt about that then whether or not W.C. Fields would have been happy about being on an album cover for the Beatles. Joyce can read like a manic depressive with OCD, so there is that shared heritage beyond their mutual country of origin.
One of the things that you notice about protest music is a certain world weariness that pervades the content. Maybe that’s what made Edwin Starr’s War stand out from something like Eve of Destruction. Protest-worthy events continue piling up without end. Our art and our common existence requires that constant infusion of fresh blood that discovers new crimes and old sins anew.
The Pogues took their anger and crafted phenomenal music. Everywhere they turned, they found something to be pissed off about, even when they had a good day at the horse track, they manage to sound annoyed.
Then, there is Fairytale of New York. What does it say about me that I get goosebumps when Shane MacGowan reminds his love, after all the vitriol, that he kept her dreams with his? No other song in pop music so beautifully encapsulates the immigrant couple’s trial. I have called attention to Kirstie MacColl before and I am at a loss… Ah, hell, here come the tears again.
Sometimes you need Jean-Michel Basquiat or Keith Haring or Francisco Goya. Picasso needed to make Guernica. The Clash needed to sing Spanish Bombs. The Pogues needed to exist because we need to be angry and sad and happy to the extremes. Sometimes you need to drive down the street with the music blaring a bunch of punks.
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 260 more to go.
New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out are released regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry are posted irregularly. Notifications are posted on Facebook which you can receive by friending or following Craig.