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Rum Sodomy & the Lash (Expanded Version)

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Album Review

"I saw my task...was to capture them in their dilapidated glory before some more professional producer f*cked them up," Elvis Costello wrote of his role behind the controls for the Pogues' second album, Rum Sodomy & the Lash. One spin of the album proves that Costello accomplished his mission; this album captures all the sweat, fire, and angry joy that was lost in the thin, disembodied recording of the band's debut, and the Pogues sound stronger and tighter without losing a bit of their edge in the process. Rum Sodomy & the Lash also found Shane MacGowan growing steadily as a songwriter; while the debut had its moments, the blazing and bitter roar of the opening track, "The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn," made it clear MacGowan had fused the intelligent anger of punk and the sly storytelling of Irish folk as no one had before, and the rent boys' serenade of "The Old Main Drag" and the dazzling, drunken character sketch of "A Pair of Brown Eyes" proved there were plenty of directions where he could take his gifts. And like any good folk group, the Pogues also had a great ear for other people's songs. Bassist Cait O'Riordan's haunting performance of "I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day" is simply superb (it must have especially impressed Costello, who would later marry her), and while Shane MacGowan may not have written "Dirty Old Town" or "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda," his wrought, emotionally compelling vocals made them his from then on. Rum Sodomy & the Lash falls just a bit short of being the Pogues' best album, but was the first one to prove that they were a great band, and not just a great idea for a band. [WEA's long-overdue remastered reissue of Rum Sodomy & the Lash features six bonus tracks (one of which, "A Pistol for Paddy Garcia," first appeared on the album's initial cassette release, while the others popped up on singles), as well as an appreciation from Tom Waits and informative liner notes from David Quantick; the audio is also a genuine improvement over the album's previous CD release.]


Formed: 1982 in Kings Cross, London, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

By demonstrating that the spirit of punk could live in traditional Irish folk music, the Pogues were one of the most radical bands of the mid-'80s. Led by Shane MacGowan, whose slurred, incomprehensible voice often disguised the sheer poetry of his songs, the Pogues were undeniably political -- not only were many of their songs explicitly in favor of working-class liberalism, but the wild, careening sound of their punk-injected folk was implicitly radical. While the band was clearly radical, they...
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Rum Sodomy & the Lash (Expanded Version), The Pogues
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