Album #555 – Rum, Sodomy & The Lash

Album #555

The Pogues are a punk band with Irish roots. Even though they were formed and based in London, they had a connection to Ireland through either themselves or their parents. Their songs are entirely about life on the Emerald Isle: its politics, its people and their experiences abroad. Shane MacGowan was born in Kent to Irish parents and even though he is British by birth, his rebel rousing and spirit is purely Irish. Without the Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, Spirit of the West and even Mumford and Sons would cease to exist. Their music was unlike anything else around in 1985. No glitz, no glamour. Raw energy combined with the music of their ancestors. In fact, had Rum, Sodomy and the Lash not been produced by Elvis Costello in such a way as to highlight the raw energy of MacGowan and co, this album probably would not be on the list. Their first album Red Roses for Me was a good start but something was missing. It took Elvis Costello, a Brit with Irish parents himself, to capture lightning in a bottle. The defining characteristic of the band is Shane MacGowan. His voice is distinctive and would sound out of place elsewhere. I once described his voice to a friend in high school as that of the town drunk. But, my what a voice it is. The best part about Rum, Sodomy and the Lash is that the songs on this album aren’t all lively. Some are very slow and emotional. In fact, bassist Cait Riordon, sings lead on I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Everyday and is a stark contrast to MacGowan. A mixture of drinking songs and ballads clearly reflects the Irish musical tradition. It’s no wonder that three years after this album’s release, the Dubliners and the Pogues had a hit with The Irish Rover. It was a nice pass of the baton to the next generation. The album’s finest and emotional moment was saved for the very end. The song “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” was written by British-Australian folk singer Eric Bogle about an Australian soldiers time on the battlefield in World War II. It shows not only that the Pogues were more than what they appeared to be but, that like any great artist they can take a good song and make it their own.

Other highlights include: The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn, A Pair of Brown Eyes, Sally MacLennane, Dirty Old Town (another good song that they made their own), Jesse James, Navigator, Billy’s Bones and The Gentleman Soldier.

Overall, I give Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, 5 out of 5

Next: Hounds of Love by Kate Bush

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