Tuesday, October 20, 2015
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: PUGWASH - PLAY THIS INTIMATELY (AS IF AMONG FRIENDS)
Living so close to Pugwash, Nova Scotia, the name of this band always freaks me out a little, and I have to explain that they are not, in fact, Canadian, but rather a U.K. bunch. Leader Thomas Walsh is Irish in fact, and originally Pugwash was just him, as far back as 1999. In the last few years he's turned it into a quartet, and after being an British-only secret, moves are being made to introduce the band to North America. Maybe Pugwash will play Pugwash some day.
Last year, a compilation album was put together for this side of the Atlantic, an excellent overview of five albums and some singles, called A Rose In A Garden Of Weeds. Now comes the band's first proper album with international aims, and it certainly continues in the style of the best-of. Walsh is a huge fan of the master pop makers of the U.K., and has deliberately continued in their path. He is from the long line of somewhat eccentric, typically British pop writers, that have a touch of the old British music hall in their writing, rather than North American blues. In pop terms, that's Ray Davies of The Kinks, Jeff Lynne of ELO, and Andy Partridge of XTC, from the '60's to the '80's, and all three show up here, friends of the band.
These are actually just cameos from the famous folk though, and Walsh and company don't really need any help. They are more than capable of creating chamber pop gems of their own, one of the best melodic combos since Squeeze came on the scene. Walsh seems to delight in bouncing from influence to influence, able to conquer each and move on. The group never stays in one place too long, so you can never accuse them of being too similar to any of the greats. There's a track here, All The Way From Love, which you could easily stick on a Teddy Thompson album, and fool all, including Teddy.
The songs also avoid being too sweet. Opener Kicking and Screaming has a sharp edge, as the singer drives hate, hurt and fear away, "kicking and screaming, on it's knees." Mostly, you'll marvel at the glorious chord changes, piled harmonies and delightful instrumental parts, each moment a great tip of the hat to pop's past, present and future.