When a Pogues album is seen in any ‘best of…’ list of albums, you can almost guarantee that it will be If I Should Fall From Grace With God. However while that is undeniably a seminal album, Red Roses For Me is where it all began; spawning a sub-genre which has paved the way for bands like Flogging Molly and The Tossers to meld Irish folk melodies with the barely controlled rage of the punk sounds which had swept through popular music a couple of years previously.
Later in their career the group would experiment with other influences to varied effect, but at this point the blueprint laid down on RRFM is more or less stuck to and is all the more gripping music for it.
The album opens with ‘Transmetropolitan’; a restrained few notes of accordion ill prepare the listener for what turns out to be a high speed, booze soaked race through the streets of London. Shane MacGowan’s paean to the city is also an infectious ode to the joys of alcohol, with the line "We’ll
drink the rat’s piss, kick the shite, and I’m not going home tonight" defying anyone not to grab the nearest bottle and start drinking. The jaunty instrumental ‘Battle of Brisbane’ follows, showcasing the talent of the various musicians involved, but is hardly a memorable stand out.
It is the next track which re-draws attention, a haunting rendition of Brendan Behan’s ‘The Auld Triangle’ in which MacGowan's trademark snarl perfectly evokes the despair of the incarcerated. For much of the rest of the album the band lets loose with a whirlwind of revved-up folk punk which would have a dead man’s toes tapping, but even at this early juncture there are hints of the musical ingenuity which would bring the band success. Live favourite ‘Boys From The County Hell’ tips its hat to the spaghetti western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone, while ‘Waxie’s Dargle’ adds the sounds of a beer tray smashed over tin whistle player Spider Stacy’s head to the already loud and frantic mix. ‘Streams of Whiskey’, another acknowledged classic, again references Behan – highlighting the influence of Irish literature as much as music on MacGowan's song writing. The album only seems to pause for breath at the very end, where a beautiful rendition of the traditional ‘Kitty’ brings
proceedings to a stately close. If I Should Fall from Grace … and Rum, Sodomy and the Lash would show the band’s range and abilities to greater effect; but there is no denying that in their debut album, we hear the band at their raucous, whiskey-soaked best.
Red Roses For Me is easy to get hold of from amazon.