What The Hell’s A Pugwash?
Hmmmnnn, let’s see: an album featuring the singular talents of Colin Moulding & Andy Partridge (XTC), Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy), Jason Falkner (Jellyfish), and other like-minded underrated musical geniuses? Yes please!
As is so often the case I discovered this compilation album (A Rose in a Garden of Weeds: A Preamble Through the History of Pugwash) by being a fan of another, connected band (The Divine Comedy), which led me to the (supposed) one-off project entitled The Duckworth Lewis Method (which featured DC’s mastermind Neil Hannon and some Irish guy I’d never heard of…more on him in a bit), which led me to sampling this band called Pugwash; after which I immediately found and purchased this album. Allmusic has absolutely no real information on this band yet apparently they have been both critically and commercially adored in their native Ireland, and in England, SINCE 19BLOODY99!! Why hadn’t I heard of this band? Digging a little deeper I found the following passage from a review on the album:
“Pugwash is the band that crossed over the dimensional timeline, and continue to provide the big melodies that get stuck in your head three minutes short of forever. Take, as but one example, this collection’s “Here,” originally on Eleven Modern Antiquities. It is both new and “old” at the same time. It’s the song that would have been your most favorite song had you heard it 10-20-30 years ago (had it existed 10-20-30 years ago). This is not an exercise in retro revivalism. It’s just great classic pop songwriting and it is indispensable.”
Yet another review called Pugwash “Oasis with brains”, but after listening to this album a few times I’d say that’s a little simplistic, not to mention lazy. Beatle-esque in parts, yes, but what band doesn’t have something lifted from the Fabs in their sound? I’d say they’re a little difficult to pigeonhole. But really, all you have to do is take a look at those four names in the first sentence of this post to get an idea of what they sound like. A little Scott Walker here (Divine Comedy), a little Beatles/Badfinger there (Jellyfish), and a little alterna-psychedelia/pop just to top things off (XTC). Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention there’s quite a bity of the classic ELO sound in here, too. But the musician I hear most in these songs is Harry Nilsson. The eclectisism, but also the melodicism. If these afore mentioned artists don’t do it for you, then don’t bother with Pugwash. If they do, then have at it!
The success of these wonderful songs is due primarily to the visionary behind this band, and co-creator of the Duckworth Lewis Method (rush out and buy that one, too! NOW!) Thomas Walsh. This guy’s the real deal, a singer-songwriter with soul and considerable chops. When I heard Casanova by The Divine Comedy a couple of years ago I kept buying albums in their discography until I had them all. I suspect I’ll be doing the same with Pugwash. This album is described in the Amazon footnotes as “An American taster”, an attempt to drum up North American support. Not sure how many new converts they’ll get, but they deserve a whole bunch. Here, take a listen, and tell me what you think: