By Peter Robinson
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30 Years by The Pogues

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Issue 387

One of the great voices from Thatcher’s Britain is back to remind us even if we are in the gutter, some of us are looking at the stars. The Pogues have produced a commemorative box set to celebrate 30 years since the release of their first album. Many people will only know the band from their seasonal epic “Fairytale of New York” so now you can buy all their albums in one fell swoop.

The 8 CD collection includes the band’s five studio albums from the 1980s taking us from their early days as a hell-raising five piece from the Kings Cross punk scene; to major label success as a seven piece; through the two albums where the band’s drink and drugs intake were obviously taking a toll, particularly on songwriter and vocalist Shane MacGowan; to the two albums from their 90s nadir after they had sacked MacGowan and were described as being like Morecambe and Wise without Morecambe, or Wise.

At their best the Pogues reflected the rage, alienation and moments of bliss of modern life. Beautiful love songs are full of insults, slurs, and literary references to writers such as Brendan Behan and James Mangan.

When they started, their brand of folk/punk was seen by purists as as almost heretical. In those days folk music was not trendy. Soon MacGowan’s songwriting was acknowledged to be driving Irish music forward. They were resolutely a London band, exemplified by songs such as Transmetropolitan, Lullaby of London and Rainy Night in Soho. They characterised the experience of many Irish migrants in the 80s.

Their debut album Red Roses for Me has been remixed in this collection and sounds sharp and clean (as has the fourth Peace and Love). But for many the reason to buy it will be the live album from which 1991 features Joe Strummer on vocals. There are particularly brilliant versions of I fought the Law and London calling.

Try to see the reformed band live while you still can. Sadly guitarist Philip Chevron died last year but the annual Christmas tour last month was acclaimed as a return to form.

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