Cinema Review: Crock of Gold - A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, June 24th, 2021  

Crock of Gold - A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan

Studio: Magnolia
Directed by Julien Temple

Dec 02, 2020 Web Exclusive
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Shane MacGowan, the legendary and totemic lead singer of Irish-proto-punk band The Pogues, is the subject of Julien Temple’s latest rock-documentary. Sometimes bad tempered and fiercely intelligent, this film offers a great skim over his life and career, from the fields of Tipperary to some of the world’s biggest music stages.

Temple is a perfect pick to craft this fantastical journey through MacGowan’s personal history, with previous comparable films focusing on other punk icons such as The Sex Pistols in The Filth and The Fury, Joe Strummer in The Future is Unwritten and Dr. Feelgood in Oil City Confidential. He utilizes a collage style of cutting and pasting together interviews, archive footage, animation, and reenactments that has always felt perfect for looking at punk musicians, and it is put to great effect once again. He perfectly captures the various sides of MacGowan’s persona and flits between anarchy and solace with ease.

The film is set up as if we are sat at a bar with an ever revolving slideshow of friends, admirers and colleagues who are all wheeled in front of Shane to allow him to reminisce about his rise to become one of the most iconic figures in Irish music. Among them there is Gerry Adams, former leader of the Sinn Fein political party, Johnny Depp and members of his own family - along with his wife, Siobhan.

While it’s sad to see him in a state of physical ill health, slumped in a wheelchair due to the bad effects of a broken pelvis that he suffered in 2015, his mind remains razor sharp. He still has bags of charisma and always fires back with perfect one liners and put-downs, and is able to recall back to stories from his youth and his time touring the world with The Pogues, and has the adept ability to relay these stories in detail.

We take a trip through his formative years in rural Ireland to his wild years in the ‘70s London punk scene, and see how all of these aspects formed his persona and moulded him into such a talented writer and performer. As frontman of The Pogues, he was able to drag traditional Irish music back into the mainstream, peaking with the release of “Fairytale of New York” in 1987 which arrived at the height of his notoriety - and remains the most-played Christmas record of all time.

His decline due to drugs and alcohol is also covered well, and gives him the space to express his thoughts about his struggles with addiction. The yarns he spins are captivating but he doesn’t always take well to questioning. As with everything else in his life, he only participates on his own terms.

At his 60th Birthday concert we see him surrounded by musical icons, such as Nick Cave and Bono, and reaffirms the reach of his influence. MacGowan, for all the skullduggery, is a poet at heart, with the incredible skill of summarising the struggles of oppressed peoples all over the world, particularly in his home country - sometimes cutting through the noise with the bitter truth and more often than not with a wink and a smile.

He signs off perfectly by saying that he would love to be able to walk again, so that he “can play pool.”

Crock of Gold perfectly encapsulates a man that has refused to change, and is firmly committed to rage against the dying of the light.


Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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