Of Caddies and Paddies

Feb 26, 2007 at 12:15 pm

"There enough room in the Escalade for the lot of us?"

It may be more customary to watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, but it turns out that the Oscars telecast sneaks in some interesting spots as well. In between Helen Mirren's toast to Queen Elizabeth and Forest Whitaker's existential but moving speech, we spied an ad for the Cadillac SRX (a mini-SUV that looks like it could fit in the back of an Escalade) to the tune of the Pogues' "The Sunny Side of the Street," the lead-off track from 1990's Hell's Ditch. Watch the ad, titled "Morning Routine," on Cadillac's site (click on the Commercials & Downloads tab).

We've long ago given up carping on musicians for "selling out" to television ads; many of the acts that license songs to car ads, from the Clash to the Walkmen, have fought the good fight with the music industry — they've earned the quick payday and national exposure. But this is an odd choice. On the surface, "Sunny Side" is one of the Pogues' most ebullient songs — bright mandolin strums, a jet stream of chromatic accordion energy, the whole Irish folk-pub rock mix done to perfection. The instrumental intro, when played over scenes of a rushed morning in suburbia, is almost enough to make one wish for such starch-collared domesticity. Then singer Shane MacGowan starts in, his slurred brogue singing of his wild roving days. Shane's word-garblin' mouth can make it hard to make out the lyrics, so we've transcribed them for you:

Seen the carnival at Rome, I had the women, I had the booze All that I can remember now Is little kids without no shoes So I saw that train and I got on it With a heart full of hate and a lust for vomit Now I'm walking on the sunny side of the street

Booze, hate and vomit — could that replace Cadillac's current slogan of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit"? The conflation of drunkenness and luxury cars may not be as confounding as, say, a commercial for a cruise line set to Iggy Pop's liquor-and-drugs anthem "Lust for Life," but it's dumbfounding nonetheless.

Still, it's nice to hear the brilliant Pogues on the air again (were they ever on the air in this country to begin with?). Having reunited in 2001 for biannual tours of North America and Europe, the band will be playing in Chicago on March 5 and 6. If you're itching for a road trip, Cadillac may have the perfect ride for you.

-Christian Schaeffer