Liner Notes, VII: Rum, Sodomy, and The Pogues

By John F. Guido

Rum_sodomy_and_the_lash
Via Wikipedia

 

 

Hey guys, my name is John. This is Liner Notes. You know the deal.

I find myself at a loss on how best to introduce The Pogues, and their second album Rum Sodomy and the Lash, so I guess a little bit of background on the band would be an apt place to start. The Pogues themselves—to a certain extent—defy categorization. Sure, they fall into the sub-genre of Celtic Punk, but by and large, their sound doesn’t necessarily fit into such a classification. I say this because if you were to listen to other modern Celtic punk bands, you’d find that they sound…off; that the Pogues and whoever you’re comparing them to (Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly) are not entirely synonymous.

To really explain why this is the case, I’m going to have to split some hairs. Simply put, the reason for the discrepancy is the fact that The Pogues songs are composed and written as folk songs; they’re just played and performed in a punk style. Most other Celtic Punk bands perform punk songs, and every once in a while, there’s just some added celtic flair. Thus, The Pogues offer a wholly unique listening experience.

The album’s title gives you an idea of what you can expect with the LP. The Pogues sound like an all night bender: thumping, messy, and raw. Yet, there’s a softness to some of their tracks, thanks to the folk the songs are rooted in. It allows for the band to tone down the grit on songs that demand a bit more heart, and still provide a song that has some punch. Coupled with the layering of the band’s various instruments—tin whistle, guitar, banjo, accordion, harmonica, etc.—and the album is full of songs that are both wonderfully dynamic, and stand as proof that the band can compose Irish folk tracks that can stand with the best of them.

The same can be said of the tracks’ lyrics, with frontman Shane McGowan not only crafting romping drinking songs, but tracks with a surprising amount of vulnerability and softness to them given The Pogues’ standing in punk rock. A lot of that has to do with McGowan’s delivery: Him singing out in a broken rasp that is delightful to listen to. The overall effect is that Rum Sodomy and the Lash is an incredibly satisfying album, and fills a nice niche in the world of punk rock.

Pros:

  • A wonderful blend of Irish folk and punk rock that offers an altogether, uh, interesting experience
  • The way McGowan bounces between melancholy moments of openness and drunken brashness with his tracks, and brings a new voice to folk classics.

Cons:

  • The album is a little long, and is a bit of a slog around the halfway point

Listen to These:

  • “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”
  • “Wildcats of Kilkenny”
  • “A Pair of Brown Eyes”
  • “Dirty Old Town”
  • “Sally MacLennane”
  • “A Pistol For Paddy Garcia”

When to Listen to It:

-When you need a soundtrack for a drunken montage, and the ensuing hangover.

If You Liked This, Try These:

Joy by The Skids

The Cat Among the Pigeons by Roaring Jack

John F. Guido is a Highlighter Staff Columnist. Email him at music @nyunews.com

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