The Popes are a band that aren’t very widely-known, but this doesn’t mean that that aren’t very good. In fact, their latest album ‘New Church’ deserves all the exposure it can get and its moments of greatness shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s an album that easily transports you into a cosy pub in Dublin, showcasing a sound that encompasses the fun spirit of Ireland.
Formed back in 1994 by Shane MacGowan after leaving The Pogues, The Popes have gone from strength to strength, developing a unique modern folk-rock sound that evolves with every record. Since Shane‘s departure, Paul ‘Mad Dog’ McGuiness has taken up the lead vocalist role for their last three albums, including their wonderful new effort – their best record yet.
‘New Church’ is an album that takes a distinct vintage folk sound and twists it into a modern-sounding style of music. Opener ‘Storming Heaven’ is one of the heavier-sounding tracks on the record, opening the album with a bang with its distinct 80s punk thrash, with vocals that can be easily compared to that of The Misfits. But don’t be fooled by this bold opening, The Popes can do laid-back too. It’s a record that has almost theatrical moments, with the desperately spoken poetry intro of ‘Throw Down Your Aces’, a track that sets the album’s slightly bluesy-vibe whilst incorporating a modern electric-rock sound with gentle crashing percussion in the background. It’s an impressive mixture of sounds that somehow still maintains their signature folk undertones.
Songs such as ‘In A Broken Dream’ and ‘Hanging Up My Guns’ show that The Popes can also produce melancholy songs with heartfelt lyrics. ‘In A Broken Dream’ brings their vintage sound back to the present day with a slightly eerie intro filled with distorted guitars, which set a gloomy scene for the rest of the track.
Full of ska-like horns, ‘Back In The Day’ will get you feeling upbeat and in the mood to party, along with the bubbly Alice, which explores the fun of youth.
Whilst musicaly it seems like an album that has everything anyone looking for something a little different to listen to would want, Mad Dog‘s vocals are not perfect. However, given the nature of the sound they’re seeking, this doesn’t matter in the slightest. After a few listens, you would no doubt grow to love his gruff voice which complements the raw tone of ‘New Church’ so well.
If you’re looking for a band that offers a sound that’s a bit more exciting than the predictabilities of modern mainstream music, The Popes are well worth a listen. Whether you’re into your folk-punk or not, ‘New Church’ is bound to get your foot tapping on at least one occasion.
Written by Ashleigh Wight