The Popes

Holloway Boulevard

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Given Shane MacGowan's on-again-off-again, self-destructive behavior, it's nice to know that the spirit of his music will live on with or without him, via his backup band, the Popes. This is their debut recording and it's produced in a manner very similar to Crock of Gold, MacGowan and the Popes' 1998 release, which was heavy on acoustic instruments but loaded with plenty of piss and vinegar. Guitarist and singer Paul McGuinness sounds like a more bluesy and less irascible MacGowan, and the band's songwriting is not unlike that of their sometimes boss either, as Irish folk instruments, exaggerated country motifs, hillbilly imagery, and occasional brass all figure into the equation. Among the selections are "Sleepless Nights," a bluesy Van Morrison-like number, "Waitress," a crude Kinky Friedman ditty, and three numbers written by MacGowan, including "Rock 'n' Roll Band" on which he sings lead. While a close lyrical analysis will likely reveal drastic differences, on the surface Holloway Boulevard seems to parallel a recording 29 years its senior, Muswell Hillbillies by the Kinks. Admittedly, the earlier recording probably deals more empathetically with the propensities of its variegated characters while the Popes' coarse delivery conveys a "better you than me" attitude.

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