Shane MacGowan & the Popes | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Shane MacGowan & the Popes 

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One of the 80s' finest bands, the Pogues created whiskey-splashed Celtic folk rock that was an exhilarating blend of musical virtuosity and gob-in-the-face fury. The group's 1988 LP If I Should Fall From Grace With God was one of that decade's certifiable gems. Back then it seemed that while veteran players like Terry Woods gave the Pogues their chops, the inspired Shane MacGowan was the group's heart and soul--a view that was verified after MacGowan and the Pogues parted ways (reportedly because MacGowan had become a booze-sodden, drug-drained wreck) and the Pogues released a pleasant but punchless record that only highlighted MacGowan's absence. Meanwhile, MacGowan appeared destined for oblivion. But like a toothless, bleary phoenix rising from a pile of dank bar rags, MacGowan is back with a new band and a new record. The Snake is a strong effort that mixes straight-ahead rockers with Anglo-Irish balladry and one regrettable schmaltzy duet with Sinead O'Connor. The more rocking tunes like "The Church of the Holy Spook" and "Victoria" are raucous and fun, though less than transcendent. Only "A Mexican Funeral in Paris," with its jazz-riff chorus, is a genuine standout. But on the numerous tin-whistle-and-fiddle-festooned pieces, MacGowan again displays his songwriting genius. "The Snake With Eyes of Garnet" and "The Song With No Name" are truly beautiful works that equal the Pogues' best moments. Though the Popes lack some of their predecessors' versatility and verve, they still do a fine job of channeling their wayward leader's potent muse. The Waltons and the Bogmen open. Thursday, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andy Catlin.

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