The ultimate Pogues song is "The Body of an American." It begins with a stately Celtic funeral march of uillean pipes and tin whistles, as Shane MacGowan brays about the death of a rich Irish-American who'd retired to the Irish countryside to die in " the land where his fathers lay." Fifteen minutes after the funeral, the locals have broken into the Yank's country house to drink his whiskey and mock his dying words:" I'm a  free-born man of the USA!" But by the last verse, Shane is bidding farewell to the lover he must leave behind; he's taking the boat to America to start the cycle over again. The immigrants envy the natives and the natives envy the immigrants; everybody feels like a tourist, and everybody's getting a little  thirsty. Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash is morbid and festive at the same time. Every one of MacGowan's characters knows it's too late to go back to the pub where you were born, and it's too late to pretend you didn't sell your soul on the old main drag. So every ribald lyric, every drunken pipe solo, becomes a rite of passage. And although MacGowan's Celtic heart is soaked in Guiness and sorrow as deeply as Richard Thompson's, the reels and jigs are sheer exhilaration. Moment of triumph: "They'll take you to the prior/ He'll stick you in the ground/ But you stick your head back out and shout/ We'll have another round."


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