The Popes / Paul McGuinness
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The Popes / Paul McGuinness


Band Folk Punk


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""Release the Beast" Review"

The Popes - Release The Beast (Recall)
UK release date: 1 November 2004

track listing

Disc: 1
1. Church of the Holy Spook [Live]
2. Hillbilly [Live]
3. Hills of Connemara [Live]
4. Bells [Live]
5. Beast [Live]
6. Aisling [Live]
7. Sleepless Nights [Live]
8. New Rose [Live]
9. Fear of a Paddy Planet [Live]
10. Holloway Boulevard [Live]
11. Donegal Express [Live]
12. Over the Rainbow [Live]
13. R U Lookin @ Me [Live]
14. Last Call [Live]
15. Nations Gonna Rise [Live]

Disc: 2

1. Halloway Boulevard
2. Vaya Con Dios
3. Hillbilly Soul
4. Sleepless Nights
5. Pump Action Paddy
6. Hills of Connemara
7. Beast
8. New Rose
9. Jukebox
10. Paddy's Got a Brand New Bag
11. Waitress
12. Chino's Place
13. Rock 'N' Roll Band
14. Walk Tall
15. Last Call
16. Like a River
[an error occurred while processing this directive] The gaping cracked face of Shane McGowan peers behind every note in this Irish-punk cracker. In fact, he's even gone as far as writing the sleeve notes, co-penning a couple of tracks and making a welcome guest vocal appearance on Chino's Place. A re-release of The Popes' 2000 debut Holloway Boulevard and a fifteen-track mix of some of the best live performances since then, Release the Beast is a satisfying slab of folk-rock.

Post-McGowan, The Popes still offer a raucous concoction of traditional Irish instrumentation and songs stewing with sex, drugs and filthy blues rock. A far sight better than Waiting For Herb-era The Pogues, but not as enthralling as the grimy sounds of Rum Sodomy and the Lash, The Popes have achieved something that eluded the Shane-less Pogues - they have made a good rocking album without McGowan at the helm.

McGowan assembled The Popes after he was unceremoniously hustled out of The Pogues (note the cheeky sight-rhyme of the band names). Hand picked for their particular musical talents and personalities, McGowan exudes pride in the accompanying sleeve notes: "The rhythm section is as tight as a nun's c**t - drummer Andy Ireland is a genius of his art…and I'd like to break his pretty little hands." And there are indeed times when the music is so damned accomplished and thrilling you want to tap your feet right through the floorboards. The sheer joy of listening to the speed of Tom McMahon's banjo at the end of Sleepless Nights sends your legs into a Michael Flatley frenzy.

Lead Paul "Mad Dog" McGuinness at times sounds like Van Morrison by way of Tom Waits, but most of all his voice is similar to - you've guessed it - Shane McGowan. He retains a sense of danger, and although at times we're listening to the safe and clichéd fiddling and banjo playing, we're never too far from a drug or sex reference. With lyrics such as "She gives me everything I need, uppers and downers and moonshine whisky, dope and coke and smack and speed" this certainly isn't Riverdance. McGuinness can't quite write dirty, gruff romantic tunes in the same vein as early Pogues, but waltz-tempo New Rose and Sleepless Nights are wonderful drunken ballads.

Live, The Popes are at their most energetic, and McGuinness is appealingly sleazy and gruff. Kicking things off with "song number one in the Popes' songbook - Church of the Holy Spook", McGuinness launches into a husky version of the opening track from previous album The Snake.

In fact, when he's not impersonating McGowan, McGuinness's voice is actually closer to the traditional Irish style of Christy Moore. He also comes across as less inebriated than the slurred chaos we've come to expect from McGowan. Dedicating The Snake's Aisling to his "beautiful red-head daughter" you begin to feel that perhaps McGuinness isn't quite as uncontrollable as we've been led to believe. More raucous than Van Morrison's It's Too Late to Stop Now, but not as wild as The Who's Live at Leeds, Release the Beast is both catchy and plenty of fun.

In the end, there's nothing spectacularly distinctive about The Popes, and nothing so edgy, confrontational and soulful as when McGowan's in charge, but this is still a very good album with a gutsy live recording to boot. Perfect for parties, and destined to be plucked from the collection on St Pat's day, this is actually an accomplished and at times exciting album played by some of the best musicians in Ireland.

- Paul Mallaghan


""Holloway Boulevard" Review"

The Popes:
Holloway Boulevard
CD Information
Released: March 21, 2000
Label: Magnum Collectors
Genre: Celtic Rock , Pop/Rock , Rock & Roll
Titles: View all titles by The Popes

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. ~ Dave Sleger, All Music Guide

- All Music Guide

""The Snake" Review"


Shane MacGowan might as well be the patron saint of drunks. The former Pogues frontman, who became more noted for his binges and black-as-tar teeth than his music, MacGowan offered himself up as the latest example of the tragic Irish poet--brilliant, but screwed up--eventually letting his drug habit and whiskey binges get him kicked out of the band he helped form. But in 1995, he sobered up just long enough to put together a new band, The Popes, and record an album, The Snake. It's one of those discs that can either be the soundtrack to a jig-saturated party or a night of solo consumption. Like the Pogues, The Popes gave traditional Celtic music a punk rock makeover. But this time MacGowan decided to leave out much of the politics, instead focusing on whiskey, heartache and his own compulsive addictions. His voice still came off like a frog barfing. And MacGowan's lyrics were brutal and beautiful: "I ruined my life by drinking/ bad wives, taking pills and cursing/ rock 'n' roll you crucified me" ("The Church of the Holy Spook"). Soon after, MacGowan fell off the wagon and has barely been heard from again (The Popes released an album without him last year). Then again, one listen to The Snake and it's hard to believe that he ever sobered up at all.

--Jeff Inman
- Las Vegas Weekly

"The Irish Post / "Release the Beast" Review"

CD Review: The Popes
THE POPES. Release The Beast. Recall

There is a live in London CD, and a new album, Holloway Boulevard.

The vocals recorded live are drowned by the high-octane music.

Frontman Paul ‘Mad Dog’ McGuinness sounds like he smoked himself horse just before the gig.

The strength of this live offering is the best banjo playing for years. Tom McManahon is a banjo-picking genius.

Disc two is a whole different kettle of fish. The production is top-class, and McGuinness has been off the tabs.

The title track Holloway Boulevard is one for the London Irish: a dirty street song in the vein of The Pogues’ The Old Main Drag.

Hills Of Connemara is great. It’s about foxin’ the Filth and making poitin.

Overall this is decent thigh-slapping party music.

Just as Sinatra and Diana Ross made music to sip champagne from iced-flutes to, The Popes make music for skulling pints from plastic glasses.

Amen to that.


- The Irish Post


"The Snake" 1994 / "Christmas Party" EP 1996 / "The Crock of Gold" 1997 / "Across the Broad Atlantic" 1999 / "Are You Lookin' At Me?" 2000 / "Holloway Boulevard" 2000/ "The Rare Oul Stuff" 2002 / "Release the Beast" live album 2004 / "The Popes Live at Montreaux" DVD 2005 / "Between Heaven & Woolworth's" to be released in December 2007



Shane MacGowan formed The Popes in 1994 to record his album "The Snake" after leaving The Pogues.
The band's evoloution began when there came a demand for a MacGowan-less set due to MacGowan's chronic live performance unpredictability.
Paul McGuinness, front man and lead guitarist, heads them up. Having originally played in such bands as Tokyo Olympics and The Pogues (his first performance with them having been on The David Letterman Show) he remains the band's driving force.