Ireland's prodigal son, or whiskey-sodden tragedy case? As frontman for the Pogues, Shane MacGowan always managed to combine the two into one gloriously drunken whole. In the years between 1983 and 1991, the Pogues--their name derived from the Gaelic for "kiss my arse"--released five albums marrying the melodies of traditional Irish folk to the energy of punk-rock and rockabilly. It's the tracks on The Very Best Of
, drawn from The Pogues' two most celebrated albums--Rum, Sodomy and the Lash
and If I Should Fall from Grace with God
--that find the band on top form; see the drunken Yuletime feud of "Fairytale of New York" featuring the late Kirsty MacColl, or the violent pint-downer of "The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn". A look beyond the drinking songs, however, and it may come as a surprise to many that MacGowan's lyrics touch on The Big Themes--romance, misery, pride and self-destruction--with a rare eloquence; the raw emotions played out in the likes of "The Old Main Drag"--a bare, honest tale of poverty and addiction, the young MacGowan "spat on and shat on and raped and abused"--are a reminder that the Pogues may have been seldom sober, but they were never anything less than utterly human. --Louis Pattison
Digitally Remastered Collection of 21 Songs that Encapsulate the Lyrical Genius of Shane Macgowan and the Musical Mayhem of the Pogues. Featured Songs Include 'irish Rover', a Raucous Collaboration with the Dubliners, Ewan Maccoll's 'dirty Old Town' and 'fairytale of New York' and More.