There’s just something about the punk rock, hard luck love song. Perhaps it’s the words of desperate alcoholics and hard luck men who have searched a lifetime for the words to fully describe all the lonely years of an equally elusive love. “Fairy Tale of New York” and other songs from The Pogues are a perfect example, finding a way to balance a sense of hope despite an overwhelming reality that makes those odds such a long shot. What is it about the human train wreck that is Shane MacGowan that brings out the bittersweet in an Irish ballad? Maybe just one more drink, maybe one more cigarette, maybe tonight, that’s the eternal hope coupled with the centuries-old angst that is the music of the poster child for bad dental work and extreme alcoholism.
I guess that’s what I have loved about punk rock love songs. Tunes like “Who Would Have Thought” by Rancid, “If You Leave Before Me” by Mike Ness, or “Tuesday Morning by The Pogues are beautiful in a gritty, real world way that you cannot find in the polished, generic songs that are cranked out for the Billboard charts. These are verses that truly mean something, written by someone who has truly loved and lost. This isn’t the product of focus groups and marketing campaigns. This is real and it’s not Prozac-induced bubblegum cheerfulness. Perhaps it resonates better with those of us who can’t identify with MTV-manufactured pop stars, creepy Las Vegas divas and all those others you can hear over and over again on the “soft rock” stations we’ve all had to endure at some job or another. Maybe that it’s lyrics like “I’ll love you ‘til the end” just seem more sincere coming from someone who has actually experienced these emotions first-hand and penned the lyrics themselves. There’s just no desperation, no soul, no trail of broken hearts, no sense that they’ve laid it all out on the table and lost everything time and time again. I just can’t get the same feeling from some 18 year old pop star with a multi-million dollar record deal and I never will.