The Pogues - If I Should Fall From Grace With God (Vinyl LP)

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If I Should Fall from Grace with God is the third studio album by Irish folk-punk band The Pogues, released on 18 January 1988. Released in the wake of their biggest hit single, "Fairytale of New York", If I Should Fall from Grace with God also became the band's best-selling album, peaking at number 3 in the UK Album Charts and reaching the top ten in several other countries. If I Should Fall from Grace with God saw the departure of original bassist Cait O'Riordan and the addition of her former bandmate Darryl Hunt, Phil Chevron and ex-Steeleye Span member Terry Woods to the line-up. Woods and Chevron (the only two members of The Pogues actually born in Ireland) contributed the first original songs to a Pogues album not written by singer Shane MacGowan or banjo player Jem Finer, and the album also saw the band begin to move away from their Irish folk/punk roots and start to incorporate musical styles from other parts of the world, most notably Turkey and Spain. Many of the songs' lyrics return to familiar themes in Pogues songs, such as emigration from Ireland or returning to the country and having to adapt to the changes that have taken place after a long absence, but other tracks dwell on Irish political history or protecting children from the issues encountered as adults.

Critically acclaimed, If I Should Fall from Grace with God marked the high point of the band's commercial success. Finer called the record "a very cohesive album that drew on a lot of styles. Everything came together and it was very focused. That [album is] really the creative peak for me, in terms of the whole band being on a wavelength."

Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash might be the better album - just - but If I Should Fall From Grace With God has the songs. There are tracks on here that define not just The Pogues, but the entire genre - alongside the greatest song in the history of the entire world ("Fairytale of New York", obviously), there are songs as brilliant as "If I Should Fall From Grace With God", "Turkish Song of the Damned", "Bottle of Smoke", "Thousands Are Sailing", "Fiesta", and "Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six" - all among the high points of the decade.

There are actually so many great songs on here that it takes a while for some of them to sink in. "Thousands are Sailing" didn't register as a highlight with me until I was ten or so listens in, when suddenly the chorus hit me - 'thousands are sailing / across the Western ocean / To a land of opportunity / That most of them will never see', and later, 'thousands are sailing / again across the ocean / where the hand of opportunity / draws tickets in a lottery'. The hopes, dreams, and futility of the Irish diaspora are summed up so clearly and hauntingly on this one that I'm surprised it's not a traditional song. Shane Macgowan didn't even write it, either - it was the guitarist, Phil Chevron. That's crazy - people used to talk about George Harrison, and how he would have been the lead songwriter in any band in the world other than The Beatles; this song suggests a similar story might be true for The Pogues. And yet, this was the first of his songs to make it onto a Pogues album.

Other highlights are obvious, though. "Fairytale of New York" needs no description, other than to say every listen reminds me why I love music so much, while "Fiesta" and "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" are great, big, shambolic drunken messes and fantastic party records as a result, while "Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six" is mournful and furious in equal measure. Even after the album has become ingrained in your subconscious, these all still pack some punch.

The Pogues will always be linked to drinking, and that's fine, but there's more than enough depth and subtlety about what they do to ensure that their music sounds great in just about any circumstance. I could imagine some of these songs being played at funerals. To make an album that's so easy to enjoy, and so timeless, in a decade as brash and extreme as the '80s and in a genre as marginalized as traditional folk, is an extraordinary achievement. Then again, The Pogues were an extraordinary band.

By: Lai

A1 If I Should Fall From Grace With God
A2 Turkish Song Of The Damned
A3 Bottle Of Smoke
A4 Fairytale Of New York
A5 Metropolis
A6 Thousands Are Sailing
B1 Fiesta
B2 Medley
B3 Streets Of Sorrow / Birmingham Six
B4 Lullaby Of London
B5 Sit Down By The Fire
B6 The Broad Majestic Shannon
B7 Worms


Record Label: Rhino Records