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Shane MacGowan & the Popes: The Crock of Gold

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Source: The Daily Telegraph
Date: 25th October 1997
Author: Charles Shaar Murray
Contributor: John Marcus
Copyright: (c) 1997 (c) The Telegraph plc, London
HOW unlike the home life of our own dear Shane! Crashing in through the pub door on a swirling wave of fiddles and accordions, MacGowan kickstarts his new album by rewriting Chuck Berry’s Back in the USA as Back in the County Hell, and it’s all uphill from there: anyone who considers MacGowan overrated and would like to hear him justify his reputation, start here. Titles such as Rock And Roll Paddy, Paddy Rolling Stone, Paddy Enemy Number One, More Pricks than Kicks and Ceilidh Cowboy may seem to be giving the game away, but that’s just the menu: wait until you taste the meal.

For one thing, MacGowan and his band have integrated swinging paddy-traddy with driving rock and roll more effectively than any of their predecessors or contemporaries; for another, his low-life tall tales have rarely rung truer; and for a third, he’s managed to stay sufficiently sober in the studio to sing his lyrics discernibly and his melodies in tune.

An album for which the adjective “rip-roaring” seems faintly inadequate, it even ends with a version of the hoary Wand’rin’ Star. Forget the ‘Sis, and the Spicies and even the Teletubbies: in a nation truly at ease with itself, this would be the Christmas number one.