The Snake

Source: The Santa Fe New Mexican
Author: David Prince
Contributor: DzM
Copyright: (c) The Santa Fe New Mexican 1995

Enya, that dark, mysterious new age siren, is back, this time bearing a bunch of mythic blarney called The Celts (Reprise), a collection of one-finger melodies sequenced as a loosely conceptual soundtrack tracing the dawning of All Things Irish.

Nestled among the album’s liner notes is the curious statement that the songs’ lyrics weren’t written by the singer, but by someone named Roma Ryan, instead. Curious, that is, because there seem to be no actual words sung.

Enya’s vocalizations are comprised of a series of ethereal ooh’s and aah’s, chanted pleasantries to match her faceless musical phrases. You keep hoping something interesting will develop somewhere along the way, but what we’ve got here, basically, is a set of simplistic, synthetic overtures, no doubt destined for multi-platinum international sales.

In comparison, former Pogues singer/songwriter Shane MacGowan makes rude, even ugly, music. Unceremoniously kicked out of The Pogues a couple of years ago after recording the brilliant, belligerent and melancholic Hell’s Ditch (still available from Island), MacGowan’s now resurfaced in all his dissolute glory with a new group,The Popes,and a new CD.

On The Snake (ZTT), he picks up right where his tenure with The Pogues left off. MacGowan’s apparently done nothing to temper his coarser habits in the interim, which is to his everlasting artistic credit. He still sings like the far end of a lost weekend, slurring words and phrases unmercifully, and the mouthful of putrified teeth he proudly sports would cause even Johnny Rotten (how do you think he got the name in the first place?) envy.

But the proof, as they say, is in the whiskey, and MacGowan and his mates have cooked up a rich, thick mess of intoxicating punk attitude this time around.

The Church Of The Holy Spook literally roars out of the block riding an amphetamine rush of raucous guitar noise while MacGowan growls out a part-credo, part nod-and-wink confession:

I ruined my life by drinking, bad wives, taking pills and cursing
Rock and Roll, you crucified me, left me all alone

He’s equally affecting slobbering in his brew for love long lost. There’ll not be a dry eye or steady hand in the pub when he starts in on The Song With No Name, abetted by a spate of Pogues on whistles and pipes.

So passionate were she and I, we made fire in the air, he remembers, then chides himself, I was cruel,I was brash, I never gave a damn about the beauty I smashed.

Midway through Victoria, when he realizes his girl with green eyes is no longer there beside him, he trembles as he pops open another can. The most optimistic he manages is his duet with Sinead O’Connor, which repeats, over and over, I want to be Haunted by the ghost of your precious love, the bittersweet end in sight as the affair begins.

His blurred poetic vision is often filled with humor. As his latest girl packs and leaves without a word, all he can think of by way of rationalization is Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway. Later, back on the dirty streets again, he exclaims I’ll Be Your Handbag (though I’d rather be your negligee).

Perhaps most fascinating of all is the somewhat atypical and episodic A Mexican Funeral In Paris, a caper-gone-bad tune seemingly left over from the work he did on Alex Cox’s film Straight To Hell.

Driven by seething guitar and horn charts reminiscent of Van Morrison’s Domino, MacGowan delivers this tale of sudden death in a harrowing, guttural voice: The killers with no names, he sputters, A scar, tattoo, a blood line scorned – Revenge the only game!