• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal


Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.

Troubled Songs of Home and War

I used to work at a vintage guitar store, and I learned to be able to tell the difference between American made guitars and their Japanese and Chinese knock-offs. Sure the contours were the same, and the lacquer looked pretty similar, but there is something about a Gibson that sounds and feels very different from an Epiphone. The Pogues prove that music is the same way. They’re the kind of band whose roots show in everything they do. Not because they sing about their home, or because they use traditional Irish instrumentation, but because the emotion their music portrays sounds like the world from which they emerged.

In 1985 Ireland was almost twenty years deep into the Troubles. Constant protest and upheaval had made northern Ireland a battleground, and the whole country was suffering. The Pogues released Rum, Sodomy and the Lash amid this confusion and devastation, as an honest portrayal of how it felt to be in the Irish working class during all this deadly strife. You can hear it in songs like “The Old Main Drag”, the story of a young man living on the street after moving to a cruel city, or it’s counterpart “Sally Maclennane”, which evokes the lives of the people who stay at home. “Dirty Old Town” sketches the experience of growing up and then dying in the same town, and the closeness between nostalgia and regret.

For the most part, the songs on Rum, Sodomy and the Lash can be divided into two categories, songs about home and songs about war. What could be more appropriate knowing Ireland’s political situation? Up-tempo romps like “Gentleman Soldier” or “Billy’s Bones” try to make horrible situations easier, by using humor, but by the last song all of the pleasantries have been extinquished. “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, originally by Eric Bogle, starts with just a banjo and Shane McGowan’s despondent vocals. You begin to piece together the story of a young carefree man who’s drafted into the Australian army to fight in the Battle Of Gallipoli. After weeks in the trenches he’s hit by a Turkish shell and loses his legs. It’s not just a physical wound, however, his whole outlook is changed:

As our ship pulled into circular quay,
I looked at the place where my legs used to be,
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me,
To grieve and to mourn and to pity.

Time passes and the last image we have of him is as an old man, sitting on his porch watching the ANZAC parades:

I see the old men, all twisted and torn,
The forgotten heroes of a forgotten war,
And the young people ask me what are they marching for,
And I ask myself the same question

While Eric Bogle wrote the song to be about the veterans of the First World War, the Pogues have made it distinctly Irish. It’s impossible to hear this song without thinking of the Troubles, and the people who lived through them. So critics will say the lacquer is faded or the contours are off, but you can’t argue that this album isn’t authentic.

LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: lorenzowolff@gmail.com





More articles by:

LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: lorenzowolff@gmail.com

June 02, 2020
Zoltan Grossman
Deploying Federal Troops in a War at Home Would Make a Bad Situation Worse
Nicholas Buccola
Amy Cooper is Christian Cooper’s Lost, Younger Sister 
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming is Nuclear War
Patrick Cockburn
An Unavoidable Recognition of Failure: Trump’s Withdrawal From Afghanistan
John Feffer
Is It Time to Boycott the USA?
Kathy Kelly
Beating Swords to Plowshares
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Urban Riots Revisited
Sam Pizzigati
“Failed State” Status Here We Come
Ron Jacobs
In Defense of Antifa
Cesar Chelala
Bolsonaro and Trump: Separated at Birth
George Wuerthner
The BLM’s License to Destroy Sagebrush Ecosystems
Danny Antonelli
The Absurdity of Hope
Binoy Kampmark
Sinister Flatulence: Trump Versus Twitter
John Stanton
How Much Violence and Destruction is Enough for Depraved American Leaders and Their Subjects?
Richard C. Gross
The Enemy Within
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s “Free Speech:” Doctrine: Never, Ever, Ever Mention He’s a Liar
John W. Whitehead
This Is Not a Revolution. It’s a Blueprint for Locking Down the Nation
June 01, 2020
Joshua Frank
It’s a Class War Now Too
Richard D. Wolff
Why the Neoliberal Agenda is a Failure at Fighting Coronavirus
Henry Giroux
Racial Domestic Terrorism and the Legacy of State Violence
Ron Jacobs
The Second Longest War in the United States
Kanishka Chowdhury
The Return of the “Outside Agitator”
Lee Hall
“You Loot; We Shoot”
Dave Lindorff
Eruptions of Rage
Jake Johnston
An Impending Crisis: COVID-19 in Haiti, Ongoing Instability, and the Dangers of Continued U.S. Deportations
Nick Pemberton
What is Capitalism?
Linda G. Ford
“Do Not Resuscitate”: My Experience with Hospice, Inc.
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Who Are the Secret Puppet-Masters Behind Trump’s War on Iran?
Manuel García, Jr.
A Simple Model for Global Warming
Howard Lisnoff
Is the Pandemic Creating a Resurgence of Unionism? 
Frances Madeson
Federal Prisons Should Not be Death Chambers
Hayley Brown – Dean Baker
The Impact of Upward Redistribution on Social Security Solvency
Raúl Carrillo
We Need a Public Option for Banking
Kathy Kelly
Our Disaster: Why the United States Bears Responsibility for Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
An Open Letter to Joe Biden on Race
Scott Owen
On Sheep, Shepherds, Wolves and Other Political Creatures
John Kendall Hawkins
All Night Jazz All The Time
Weekend Edition
May 29, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Tim Wise
Protest, Uprisings, and Race War
Nick Pemberton
White Supremacy is the Virus; Police are the Vector
T.J. Coles
What’s NATO Up to These Days? Provoking Russia, Draining Healthcare Budgets and Protecting Its Own from COVID
Benjamin Dangl
Bibles at the Barricades: How the Right Seized Power in Bolivia
Kevin Alexander Gray - Jeffrey St. Clair - JoAnn Wypijewski
There is No Peace: an Incitement to Justice
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Few Good Sadists
Jeff Mackler
The Plague of Racist Cop Murders: Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Joshua Frank
In Search of a Lost Socialism