If I Should Fall From Grace With God, by the Pogues
Suggested by Mik Parkin
My birthday is November 19th.
It’s the same day every year, apart from last year when I moved in two weeks to better align with my available holiday time. And we have a rule in Chez Stevenson: we do not talk about Christmas until November 20th.
I’m sure others out there with late-November birthdays will empathise. It’s a crappy time to celebrate your birthday. It’s invariably dark and wet, and it’s invariably when folk are saving up time, cash and good cheer for a December blowout. It’s too far away from Christmas to get the sympathy one gives to those born nearer the festive period, and too far from Christmas parties that you can pretend are being held in celebration of you. Add in a bloody lockdown, and it’s just appalling. Seriously, I might not bother getting older this year, there’s nothing in it for me.
With the moratorium on festive cheer firmly in place, I was angered to see Christmas being foisted on me today, in the form of The Pogues classic Fairytale of New York.
So let’s tackle this emerald green elephant in the room. I defy anyone to tell me they haven’t a soft spot for the nation’s favourite Christmas tune. Smoky piano, the incredible Kirsty MacColl against an affable and slurring MacGowan, the bells of the NYPD choir, the whole kit and kaboodle. Dated language aside, this song is Christmas. Is it my standout? It should be, but it feels like a waste of a slot so I’m saving my shoutout for rarer fare.
With their third album If I Should Fall From Grace With God, The Pogues showcase their traditional Irish folk-punk sound with a collection of rousting, irreverent tracks. The music is infectious, the lyrics true and heartfelt, and it’s sure to have all the drunkards dancing into the small hours and beyond. Above it all there’s MacGowan’s slurred yet angry diatribe, as he snarls his way through each song with an inimitable downtrodden elan.
MacGowan’s punk attitude comes through in every song. Politically, there’s a long lean on tracks such as Streets of Sorrow / Birmingham Six and Recruiting Sargeant, and almost a wistful melancholy in songs like Lullaby of London and The Broad Majestic Shannon, but for me, you can’t get better pound-for-pound foot-stomping joy from when Shane and the crew go up tempo and belt out a mover and shaker. The brilliant Fiesta is of particular note, but my (non-Christmas) standout has to be Bottle of Smoke, a punchy and dirty tale of gambling winnings and the euphoria they can bring.
If I Should Fall From Grace With God is acerbic, anarchic, rollicking fun. Aside from a couple of collaborations with the Dubliners and a few peculiar instrumentals (all on the Extended rerelease and not the original, I must add), this succeeds on all its intended levels. I give it a strong 7/10, with a note that while I may not desire this sound on a regular basis, it’s the perfect blend of talent and attitude if I do.