Latest releases reviewed

Red Roses for Me ****
Rum Sodomy and the Lash *****
If I Should Fall from Grace with God *****
Peace & Love *****
Hell's Ditch **
Waiting for Herb **
Pogue Mahone **
Warner Strategic Marketing

It's been 20 years since The Pogues first burst through, full of punk abandon and booze-soaked tales of broken dreams. Of the seven of these anniversary re-issues, the first three are classics - after If I Should Fall... in 1988, MacGowan's physical collapse became such that his lack of voice mirrored his lack of poetic vision. From then on the songs were pedestrian at best. Red Roses for Me announced the band's arrival in 1984. With a glorious bawdy take on standards such as The Auld Triangle it signalled a new sort of Irish folk, visceral and feral and totally irritating to the purists. But it was 1985's Rum Sodomy and the Lash that really saw The Pogues take flight. Bristling with punk menace (thanks in part to producer Elvis Costello), it was also loaded with heartbreaking and bruised pieces of unparalleled beauty. The Old Main Drag saw male prostitution introduced to the Irish emigrants story; The Sickbed of Cuchulainn has lost none of its dash and élan through the years, and A Pair of Brown Eyes remains a wonderful lament. Later albums aside, it's a collection to remind you just how radical, essential and peerless The Pogues were at full tilt.

Paul McNamee