The

Mick

Sinclair

Archive

The Pogues

June

1984

The Face

feature

 
 
"There's no movement at all, the media just makes these things up," says Shane, the singer with Pogue Mahone. Ever eager to sniff out a "movement' where there may merely be the sweaty odour of people enjoying themselves, both the music weeklies and an over-zealous TV documentary (South Of Watford) have labelled what is a genuinely street-level but still relatively small scene with such odd terms as "cowpoke" and "countrybilly".

What actually exists is a gaggle of evocatively named groups with a shared predilection for country flavoured music delivered in a spontaneous and lively manner. Implements include washboard, accordion, upright bass and acoustic guitars. There is no manifesto, no single musical influence and cheek shirts are strictly optional.

An eight hour event at London's Electric Ballroom on Easter Monday became a showcase for the 'alternative country' bands but the very intimacy which operates to charmed effect in pub back-rooms was missing in the dank pit of a rock venue.

The Skiffskats wisely announced the hall "all wrong" and legged it to play in the gents toilets. Significantly this rapidly crammed convenience hosted the day's most memorable moments.

Pogue Mahone have a unique and brash blend of traditional Irish music and spikey urban awareness ("Gaelic Punk" it's been called); radio censorship notwithstanding, their self-issued single "Dark Streets Of London" shows great promise.

But "we want a major deal and we can't get one because we're not pretty girls like the Shillelagh Sisters," observes Shane. The Shillelaghs play an infectious and melodic (singer Jaquie is blessed with a tunesome set of voice chords) soul-tinged somethingabilly that looks set for wide-scale commercial success.

Waltzing into a deal with CBS does help. The Boothill Foot Tappers, on the other hand, have aligned themselves with ambitious' indie label Go! Discs. As for the remaining roster of bizarre monikers The Blubbery Hellbellies, The Gleesome Threesome, Hackney Five-0 etc – it's probable that the publicity spotlight has caught them too soon. They're momentary fun with a strong whiff of novelty but as the media glare fades so might they.

 

 

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To read many more articles and reviews (over 140,000 words-worth!) written by Mick Sinclair, buy Adjusting the Stars: Music journalism from post-punk London