The Pogues

30 Years

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"And so it arrived at interested decks across the London…" writes late Pogues guitarist Philip Chevron in the liner notes to the band's career-spanning 30 Years box set. He is referring to Red Roses for Me, the 1984 debut of the band he had not yet joined. Having been formed two years prior by some former punks named Shane MacGowan, Spider Stacy, and Jem Finer, the band had already made a name for itself in the London club scene playing a boozy, spirited take on traditional Irish music under the name Pogue Mahone. Following a self-released single, the group signed with Stiff Records, who delivered the record to interested decks across London, thus beginning a legendary and tumultuous career that would come to an end 12 years later following the release of their final studio album, aptly titled Pogue Mahone. This is not the band's first box set, nor is it their first set of remasters, but 30 Years (which includes each of their seven studio albums) is notable for offering remixed versions of two of their albums along with a 1991 live disc recorded during Clash legend Joe Strummer's brief stint replacing the then-recently fired MacGowan on lead vocals. When you're as beloved as the Pogues, tampering with your recorded legacy can be risky business. Another remaster is practically expected every time a band's catalog gets overhauled, but remixing entire albums is rarer and can be off-putting for fans who hold the original versions in such high esteem. Fortunately, they've trod lightly, offering tasteful and revealing new editions of both Red Roses for Me and 1989's Peace and Love. The 2013 version of Red Roses for Me is very subtly altered, with original engineer Nick Robbins toning down some of the reverbs and adding a welcome bit of punch to the whole affair. The updated remix for Peace and Love is far more drastic and should ultimately please fans who found the original version too ornate and dense. Stylistically, much of Peace and Love's heavily reverbed and densely overdubbed mix was seen as an attempt to cloak Shane's waning vocal abilities. It's long been a bone of contention for many fans (and apparently for the band) which has been seemingly resolved by Lillywhite's lean but aggressive remix. Still, there was a lovely grandeur to the album's original sound that matched both the Pogues' shambling struggles and the gaudy decadence of the late '80s. Hardcore fans will probably want to own both versions. The collection's only non-studio disc features the band's last London concert with Joe Strummer at the helm, recorded in December 1991. It was a pairing that made sense in the wake of MacGowan's departure, and Strummer gives himself 110-percent, stomping, hollering, and strumming his way through a Hell's Ditch-era set which also included Pogues-backed versions of the Clash's "London Calling" and "Straight to Hell." The inclusion of this live set offers yet another glimpse into why the Pogues' saga has been so captivating to follow.

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