The Pogues – If I Should Fall from Grace with God (1988)

Ever since I heard them for the first time as a child I have been in love with The Pogues. Their punk influenced brand of Irish/Celtic folk music has always appealed to me,  probably for the reason that I just love the sound of tin whistles, mandolins, and accordions playing in unison and definitely because The Pogues are simply just a good band. The Pogues brilliance is best exemplified on their third and arguably their best album “If I Should Fall from Grace with God”, released in 1988 when the band were at the peak of their powers musically. On “If I Should Fall from Grace”, the band began to expand their style more by including influences outside the Celtic/punk hybrid they had developed so successfully on their first two albums but at the same time without compromising their traditional sound. The band still showcased strongly their Irish folk sound but included new sound in places including Middle Eastern influences on “Turkish Song of The Damned”, Spanish influences on “Fiesta”, and subtle jazz influences throughout the album. The songs on this album are highly textured with layers of instruments lining most songs. Some of the instruments include the tin whistle, accordion, banjo, mandolin, and brass ensembles, many of which listeners of the band’s music would have gotten used to as they perfected their Irish influences on their first two albums. There is no doubt that the key to The Pogues sound is the instruments used by the players in the group and is these brilliantly talented players that ensures the band’s music is a Celtic cocktail of musical brilliance,  which when listened to sounds as if they could be playing in the middle of Ireland somewhere at a village fate.


Lyrically this album is quite diverse to in that the songs deal with a vast array of subject matter including. The traditional content of Pogues material continues to inspire in the form of drinking and partying, (or is that just Pogues songs combine nicely with drinking and partying) but other themes also appear in the form of love and even politics, with one track in particular dealing with the Birmingham Six and the issue of Northern Ireland. As with every Pogue album Shane McGowan is a standout, with his punk like vocal delivery and swagger again a key feature. He puts everything into his performance on this album and has an amazing ability to switch between a harsh up-tempo delivery style on the quicker folk tracks to a softer controlled approach on the slower ballads. The Pogues sound would not be the same without McGowan who gives them a uniqueness that separates them from other folk rock acts, with McGowan making up for his lack of vocal range with a swagger and confidence that drives these songs home and makes the listener sit up and take note on every song.

“If I Should Fall from Grace with God” was The Pogues most coherent and wide ranging album till that point, and probably out of all their albums best represented their sound. They took what they had done on their first two albums and showed a glimpse of what was to come on later albums leading to a wholehearted complete account of what they achieved so far. The band along with this album also helped contribute to the revival of folk music in the UK during the 1980s and 1990s, with their more modern punk influenced style ensuring that folk music became more appealing and relevant to young people who might not have listened to folk styles before during an age where synth pop, new wave, and commercial pop dominated.  “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” is one of The Pogues best albums and one of the best albums to come out of the 1980s. This album highlights that there is more to The Pogues than just “Fairytale of New York”, but also rams home the point that good folk music has been around for decades and was not a new revolutionary change in music started by Mumford and Sons. Check it out if you have heard their music before, and check them out if you haven’t, you won’t be disappointed.

A-

– Sam

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