The Pogues

The Rest of the Best

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The Rest of the Best is a solid sampling of the Pogues' output up to 1994, even when one considers that the collection in a way amounts to the second best-of, since The Best of the Pogues was released less than a year before this collection. Though the album suffers from a sequencing problem, with three of its strongest songs out of the way right off the bat, there's a lot to like across its 16 tracks, excluding the band's miserably bland take on the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women." The collection makes a case for Shane MacGowan as a kind of witty and wise Buddha for the inebriated of the world. His bandmates expertly handle serene ballads like the touching "Summer in Siam" and the subtle, acoustic "Lullaby of London" as well as they rock out in full Irish folk song revelry on "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" and "The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn." The album does a decent job of collecting some of MacGowan's most poetic lyrics. It's a good showing of the broad, emotional, and humorous themes MacGowan favors, giving a glimpse into the lives of individuals who just can't get their acts together. Singing "Now I'm lying here I've had too much booze/I've been shat on and spat on and raped and abused" and detailing beatings from "coppers" and being robbed of every last penny, MacGowan comes across like a master storyteller. Despite big-name producers like Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello, and Steve Lillywhite, many of the recordings don't catch the magic of the Pogues that works its way out of the band's full-length albums. Since the collection goes back and forth chronologically, the variation from under-produced to fully orchestrated songs gets a bit jarring. Presenting the Pogues as punk Irish folksters who aren't afraid to tackle traditional ballads or document life's absurdities, The Rest of the Best is a quality sampler of the band's Shane MacGowan-fronted years despite its flawed sequencing.

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