If I Should Fall From Grace With God
Island Records, 1988
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/03/1997
(Editor's note: The cover art featured above is not the original artwork that was on the 1988 release.)
With the release of U2's latest album just 24 hours away, let's turn our attention to undoubtedly the best band to ever come out of Ireland.
That's right - forget about U2. I'm talking about The Pogues. Their 1988 release If I Should Fall From Grace With God is their best album, and one of the best albums I have ever heard in all my years of critiquing music.
I first heard about these guys from "Buzz," a religion teacher at my high school (and still one of the hippest cats I have ever met). He described these guys as a drunken, raucous Irish folk band. Indeed, one can imagine Shane MacGowan and crew sloshed out of their minds in the studio doing this one.
But the musicianship of these guys is downright incredible, and MacGowan's slurred growls and whoops of joy make this album a pleasure to listen to. It truly sounds like they're having fun - and that, kids, is half the battle.
The title track sounds like a typical Irish folk dancing number - hell, within ten seconds it makes the listener want to get up and try some "Riverdance"-esque move that will end in a 911 call. Darryl Hunt's bass work and the drum work of Andrew Rankin especially stand out -through the whole album.
My personal favorite on this one is "Bottle Of Smoke," an obscene but engaging story of a man winning a big payoff at the horse races. There are times it's a good thing Island included a lyric sheet on this one, 'cause it's almost impossible for you to understand what MacGowan is saying.
"Fairytale Of New York," featuring Kirsty MacColl on lead vocals, is the best-known track on this one, and it is a pretty track - how can anyone not like a lyric such as: "You scumbag, you maggot / You cheap lousy faggot / Happy Christmas, your arse / I pray God it's our last." But an even prettier track on this album is "Thousands Are Sailing," which looks at coming to America from the eyes of an Irish immigrant.
And just when you think If I Should Fall From Grace With God is going to be an all-Irish album, you're slapped in the face with a Irish-Turkish melody ("Turkish Song Of The Damned") and a Spanish party number ("Fiesta").
There is not a single bad track on this album - even the closing number, "Worms," probably a last-minute joke they decided to do, has a haunting feel that makes the song work. Sadly, the band never produced another work on this level - MacGowan was eventually kicked out of the band for personal reasons, and the re-tooled lineup never quite made it, recently calling it a day.
This album may not take the place of the Irish Rovers on St. Patrick's Day, but If I Should Fall From Grace With God is more than just an album of Irish music - it is a rock, folk, dance, drink-yourself-stupid, world music album - and it's one of the best $15 you can spend your money on. If I was going to be stranded on a desert island, this is the album that would be in my personal tape deck as the plane was going down.