Rum, Sodomy & The Lash
is the 1985 second studio album from The Pogues, who are billed as a primary force in the Anglo-Irish folk punk band scene. This is to mean that the group played in the styles of traditional Irish folk music but were also influenced by the punk movement happening in Britain in the late 70's (a video of singer Shawn McGowan singing God Save The Queen
by The Sex Pistols in an elevator during those days can be seen in the excellent 2000 Julien Temple documentary Filth & The Fury
). Rum, Sodomy & The Lash
is often considered the groups finest hour, an honest, uncompromising 40 minutes or so of folk music with a kick in the balls of the best kind which is that by The Pogues.
Every track on here is a poignant lyrical expression from Shane McGowan, perhaps one of the ugliest, most junked up, drunken men alive. His fondness for hard drug use and alcohol have been well publicised over the years, but this does nothing to detract from what could be described as a subtle poetic wit hiding behind a laymans good humour. He is a genius in his own unforced way, many of the lyrics on Rum, Sodomy & The Lash
such as those found on The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn
, The Old Main Drag
, A Pair of Brown Eyes
. Sally MacLennane
and Dirty Old Town
are nothing less then completely engaging. Whilst McGowans vocals are of an untrained, rough and rugged kind that ironically seem to come from the best songwriters (Waits and Cohen, please stand up) much like these artists they are completely unique to him and give The Pogues an unmatched Irish heart and soul.
The lyrics are perfect, but if it wasn't for the rebellious spirit and lust for life oozing through the music in the way only a group drunken Irishmen could present this album wouldn't be half of what it is. The instrumental tracks Wild Cats of Kilkenny
and A Pistol For Paddy Garcia
are truly beautiful, strings and guitarwork evoking stong emotions within the listener the way the best folk music should. The arrangements on every other song are no different, whether it's the faster paced The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn
(which shows a notable punk influence more then anything in its attitude) or slower material such as The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
(an emotional account of an Australian soldier coming back from the war) it's all gold. Add superb traditional renditions such as I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day
, Jesse James
and The Gentleman Soldier
and musically, this album is notably strong.
Rum, Sodomy & The Lash
is a unique and honest affair, The Pogues having struck a completely consistent and satisfying album which is quite unlike the output of any other group out there. This is drinking music at it's finest, and whilst some criticism seems to be leveled towards the second half it feels completely unfounded to me. Rum, Sodomy & The Lash
is a true gem waiting to be discovered by anyone who hasn't heard it before, Anglo-Irish folk punk at it's finest (that is if you consider this a genre).