Christmas Eve in the drunk tank

Rexfeatures_190727dDeclan Ryan at the TLS:

On Christmas Day the musician Shane MacGowan will turn sixty, an apparently unlikely outcome for someone as committed to vices liquid and miscellaneous. The young MacGowan, with his unkempt quiff, pronounced ears and mouth like a derelict building, seemed to be operating from within his own personal lock-in; fixed with a snarl and an implication of random violence, he emerged as a kind of Tom Waits of the Kilburn High Road. To think of him as only a boozer or iconoclast, however, is to miss much of his appeal and achievement. The depth and nuance of his talent developed over the course of three remarkable records in the mid 1980s, albums which made it clear that the man whose eye you’d avoid on the night bus was steadily producing a body of rich, sophisticated songs, with lyrics indebted to seventeenth-century poets and referencing Irish historical figures as diverse as Charles Stewart Parnell and John McCormack.

As the frontman of The Pogues, a band of gifted musicians, MacGowan dragged Irish music into the mainstream. He arranged traditional songs as well as composing his own, his melodies and lyrics built on the staples of old emigrant laments and the energies of fireside cèilidh sessions; mournful songs of exile and loss, superstitions and hauntings, bawdy drinking songs. The Pogues’ hardy perennial Christmas hit, “A Fairytale of New York”, is the best known of MacGowan’s originals but by no means his only, or even his most accomplished, ballad.

more here.