Warners – 2001 – 77 minutes
'The Very Best Of…' is a timely reminder for a new generation that the much-maligned Eighties produced some truly remarkable bands. Taking the wild, drunken image of the Irish Diaspora to the outer limits, the Pogues' melange of talents somehow moulded into a uniquely inspiring unit. With a seemingly insatiable appetite for drink, by their own admission, they "fell" around the world. Yet their legendary wild tours belied the fact that many of the songs were touching tales of isolation and displacement.
The latest collection of favourites kicks off with their version of Ewan MacColl's 'Dirty Old Town'. Oddly suited to Shane MacGowan's raucous delivery, it might easily have come from the MacGowan canon. Ditto the 1987 collaboration with The Dubliners on 'The Irish Rover', a song tailor-made for the feral shenanigans of the Pogues. Such is the strength of their own songs, these two fine covers are rarely mentioned when assessing the Pogues' legacy.
Both 'Sally MacLennane' and 'Fiesta' show the band at their wildest and frantic best, the latter inspired by a prolonged sojourn in Spain. 'A Pair of Brown Eyes' marked the arrival of MacGowan as a songwriter of rare depth, revealing a talent far greater than his riotous persona hinted at. And then there's 'Fairytale of New York', the perennial favourite reveals a writer at his peak, with a song that was kept off the Christmas No 1 spot by The Pet Shop Boys. 'A Rainy Night in Soho' is arguably the one that can challenge 'Fairytale...'; sad and inspiring in equal measure, expertly capturing the MacGowan obsessions of love, loss, alcohol and redemption.
Many may argue that there is no need for another Pogues compilation. Considering we have already had 'The Best of the Pogues' and 'The Rest of the Best', they may have a point. But the latter was released in 1994, and if it takes another compilation to introduce the voyage of Shane MacGowan and the Pogues to a new generation, then so be it. It's a journey worth taking in any era.
Tracklisting: Dirty Old Town – The Irish Rover featuring The Dubliners – Sally MacLennane – Fiesta – A Pair Of Brown Eyes – Fairytale Of New York – The Body Of An American – Streams Of Whiskey – The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn – If I Should Fall From Grace With God – Misty Morning, Albert Bridge – Rain Street – White City – A Rainy Night In Soho – London Girl – Boys From The County Hell – The Sunnyside Of The Street – Summer In Siam – Hell's Ditch – The Old Main Drag – The Band Played Waltzing Matilda