The Snake

Source: Asbury Park Press
Author: Warren Zevon
Contributor: DzM
Copyright: (c) Asbury Park Press 95

Here are Irish drinking and sinning songs that mix traditional pipes, banjos and drumbeats with punk-rock guitars and MacGowan’s liltingly derisive, whiskey-scarred voice – the voice, that is, of Charles Bukowski’s typewriter.

You could deride “The Snake” as a mere copy, a decade too late, of the Pogues’ Irish rock. But you might first consider that the Pogues haven’t made a record like this since their debut, and nobody else in rock has even tried, which leaves MacGowan not merely holding the torch, but lighting the thing and getting burned by it, too.

“The Snake” is full of tales of loves gone bad and loves that were never meant to be good in the first place, and MacGowan sings them in the voice of a guy who’s lived it all and is proud of it. He’s also inhabited by its spirit – he writes originals that are just about indistinguishable from the traditional ballads and rebel songs he includes here.

His delivery of chugging blues-rock guitar numbers like “That Woman’s Got Me Drinking” and more traditional tunes like “Roddy McCorley” is as swaggering as it is defiantly tuneless, while his band, which features various Pogues in guest spots, is as swinging as it is accomplished.

“Haunted,” a duet with Sinead O’Connor, is an atypically sincere love song, pretty but out of place. More to MacGowan’s point are the low-lifes who go at each other with pickup lines like: “I’ll be your handbag/Though I’d rather be your negligee.”

And these are the kinds of tunes they can happily drink to.