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Raise a pint to Britain’s work-addled drinking class with Shane MacGowan and the Pogues. Also raise a pint to The Pogues for singlehandedly hoisting Ireland’s storytelling musical tradition out of the realm of twee nostalgia and making it relevant in the context of punk rebellion. While Irish music and Irish beer are widely loved, we tend to overly enjoy the stereotype of the Irish as adorable harmless drunks who dance silly dances, and we overlook the dark and bitter side of the culture. Not to mention a particularly ugly history of oppression, occupation, famine, mass emigration, political conflict, religious hatred and outright war that has made Ireland one Europe’s most unstable regions until very, very recently. Americans don’t want to hear about alcoholism and poverty, or the reverberating effects of the Troubles, or starving peasants scavenging for seaweed to survive; we want to see monasteries and distilleries set among bucolic rolling green hills. Tell us again about the Blarney Stone. So it’s important for pop culture to have an Irish voice talking about Irish reality, warts alongside gems, and Shane MacGowan has been unrivaled at being that figure.

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