Dry and mighty: Reformed Pogues return reckless, not wrecked

Publication: The Boston Herald

Author: Jed Gottlieb

Date: March 5, 2008

Original Location: Link

Ask any Boston rock snobs, Irish or not, and they’ll tell you the Pogues’ "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" is one of the greatest albums ever made.

Fronted by legendary pint-in-hand poet Shane MacGowan, the Irish folk-punk outfit produced a string of critically adored albums and forever-faithful fans in the ’80s. Naturally, Pogues devotees have high hopes for the band’s 2007 reunion shows, which include four Boston shows, three at Avalon (Thursday through Saturday) and a Sunday finale at the Orpheum.

But the revered revelers had more than great rock or quenching their fans’ thirst on their minds when they decided in 2006 to tour the States for the first time in 15 years. They were also thinking about the pounds of pounds they’d make.

"The simple answer to why I wanted to reunite was money," said founding Pogues accordion player James Fearnley with a mighty laugh. "But there was also an element of curiosity. There’s that sort of magnetism that we have. It’s like a family. We can’t keep away from each other."

Fearnley, speaking from his adopted home of Los Angeles, says he’s known MacGowan and the Pogues longer than he knew his parents. But by 1994 he’d grown tired of the unpredictable, wild crew and left the band. Shortly after, the band called it quits.

Then, almost a decade later, at the behest of an excited concert promoter, the Pogues re-formed for a single London show. Fearnley remembers it as better and tighter than almost any gig the band had done previously.

"At first I dreaded seeing these guys again after eight or nine years," he said. "I looked around the room and thought, ’He could have been dead from alcoholism, but he’s now a recovering alcoholic. And there’s another recovering alcoholic. And there’s another.’ It was a great source of joy for me to see that they were all still alive.

"The ones that were plastered out of their brains in the first incarnation of the Pogues weren’t able to listen to what was going on musically," he continued. "Now they can and they do. So what’s happening on stage since 2001 is that there’s a lot of attention to what everyone else is doing and we’re actually better than we were."

Fearnley rejects the idea that sobriety has neutered the messy force that fueled the band in its ’80s heyday.

"Just because we’re listening to one another doesn’t remove the ramshackleness," he said. "Remember, we have to factor in Shane MacGowan here, because he’ll edit verses or take us off to some place we’ve never been at any moment. We just have to hold on to the frothing steed around the neck for dear life and still play through it all. There’s your recklessness."

Indeed, the band is still too reckless and ramshackle to have plans for the new recording fans have long clamored for. Fearnley said it’s been talked about, but nothing is set (fans will have to make do with the excellent 2006 back-catalog reissues).

Nor are there plans for more shows beyond this tour. But then predictability and planning were never the Pogues’ strong suits.

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