The Pogues - If I Should Fall From Grace With God - Review
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critics' view

Oral hygiene is one of the many aspects of cleanliness that makes people's appearance seem more appealing. Everyone wants shiny, white, straight teeth so they don't look like a complete loser. Shane MacGowan rivals that theory with a counterculture of excess. Being avidly open about his substance abuse, Shane MacGowan's mouth is probably more well known than his songwriting. You think the man slurs words because he's drunk" Hells no, brotha. The man has fewer teeth than most users here have meaningful posts. And Shane likes it that way, because he is regarded as the original barroom hero for the sole reason of having the ugliest teeth in history. But Shane is much more than just the worst looking Celtic musician. He is held as one of the greatest songwriters in the genre. And for good reason, too. The Pogues originated the subgenre of Celtic Punk, and two albums of theirs changed the course of folk rock. If I Should Fall From Grace With God is well one of the better folk albums of the past thirty years. Blending the catchy sound of traditional Irish folk music with a drunken attitude and persona of rock music, The Pogues became the fathers of Celtic punk, achieving status that no other Irish band has (bar Thin Lizzy). The barroom anthems and catchy jingles on If I Should Fall From Grace With God are enough to get nearly every song stuck in your helpless mind for days on end. Now is where Shane MacGowan proves to be more than attractively repulsive in looks.

If I Should Fall From Grace With God is not just a folk album with catchy melody and danceable tunes. It has variation, something very hard to come by in successors like Flogging Molly. The songwriting technique switches between hushed balladry, drunken anthems, and plain old Irish sing-along tunes. Shane MacGowan's snarling, slurred voice is the perfect fit to an orchestra of mandolin, banjo and accordion. His lyrics manage to be completely incomprehensive, yet purvey a clear image of what he's actually saying. To make a long story short, you can't understand a damn thing he says, yet seem to know what the song is actually about. The melodies displayed on If I Should Fall From Grace With God are more than just average Celtic jingles. They manage to be emotional, captivating, and catchy as fucking hell all at the same time. The juxtaposition between styles and techniques are never boring, and you could easily listen to the album at least three times a day. 

Baltic sound is, as well encompassed on this album. May it only be for a very brief three minutes, forty seconds, Turkish Song of the Damned captures an almost Arabic quality, and still only melody driven by a sole accordion. On If I Should Fall From Grace With God, songwriting structures do not vary greatly, even though the melodic qualities never really sound similar. It follows a catchy verse usually with folk instruments carrying the melody, with an even catchier, punk employed chorus which will easily hook you to the album from the very first song. A few moments, in particular, showcase MacGowan's ability to write on more mature subjects. Fairytale Of New York, the infamous Christmas song of the album, is a tale of ill fated lovers, with a dueling exchange of love and hatred between MacGowan and guest vocalist, the late Kristy MacColl. Thousands Are Sailing, as well displays the ability to write about despair and hardship. And Streets of Sorrow, the hushed acoustic number is one of the nicest listens on the whole album. Now, quite contrary to that position of gentle balladry, are MacGowan's drugged out on ecstasy drinking songs. At first listen, within a few seconds, Fiesta sounds to be another quiet, Pink Floyd-esque sax driven song, reminiscent of Us And Them. The rowdy change of direction and lyrics based on beer defy that nature.

And if you have ever heard Seven Deadly Sins by Flogging Molly, you will easily notice the bootlegging of South Australia, where the melody is indecipherable between the two. But still, The Pogues were the originals.

As I proceed to conclude this review of a timeless Irish folk album, I would like to say that If I Should Fall From Grace With God is an terrific album, based on my own accord. The melodic structure, instrumental choice, and [lack of] understanding of Shane MacGowan's lyrics is pure harmony at its folksiest. Though not as good as their later epic, Rum, Sodomy and The Lash, If I Should Fall' is a likeable album, with the easily hummed songs that occupy it. And back onto the subject of oral healthcare - it seems as if you do not need nice teeth to be considered awesome. Because Shane does it, with only a few (rotting) teeth, and still manages to front a band. Surprisingly, the man is still alive. Kudos, to you, Shane.

DesolationRow
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