I’ve written about Ireland’s Pugwash before. And at risk of sounding like a broken record, you really should listen to them. Driven by the rich-voiced Thomas Walsh, this group has come up against all odds and garnered the support of no less than Jeff Lynne of ELO, Andy Partridge and Dave Gregory of XTC and also Ray Davies of The Kinks. Brian Wilson is even a fan and chose their song “It’s Nice To Be Nice” (from this album) as one of his favorites — Wilson even asked to meet Walsh while on tour after hearing the song (click here to read about that)!
So my reviewing these fine first time vinyl editions put out by Sugarbush Records is not just me being a big gushing fanboy (although I am). No, its more like I’m trying to do “the right thing” by giving this extremely talented singer, songwriter, producer behind Pugwash — Thomas Walsh — the limelight he deserves.
Had these recordings been issued in 1978 at the dawn of the New Wave movement, they would have been a smash. Had Pugwash emerged on the heels of Michael Penn’s happy MTV-era ascension in the late 1980s with his brilliant hit “No Myth,” they would have had strong shot. While Pugwash came out in the 21st Century as a classic “indie band” Walsh has aspired and escalated the group way beyond the scope of most modern DIY groups.
So if you are a fan of any of the artists I mentioned earlier, you should probably be listening to Pugwash. Walsh’s rich round voice recalls his musical heroes to form a distinctive sound all his own that falls somewhere in the grand spaces between Badfinger’s Pete Ham, Paul McCartney and XTC’s Andy Partridge. Listening to Walsh’s voice like spreading sweet jam on the finest of scones. I’d love him to record one of my songs someday, frankly (I know, dream on).
Anyhow, all this set up is necessary for most of you who are not familiar with this artist and to tell you that the new first time vinyl release by Sugarbush Records of their brilliant 2005 album Jollity is quite wonderful. This is the album that contains Brian Wilson’s favorite Pugwash song — “It’s Nice To Be Nice” — and also the wonderful quazi-Wilson-esque homage “Anchor” which was co-written with Andy Partridge of XTC.
This is likely a digital recording but it holds up well even when you play it loud – and there are times when you’ll want to play this album loudly! I am certainly enjoying the vinyl edition more than the CD quality download I’ve owned for some time (original CDs are hard to find in America).
The music on Jollity is rich with acoustic guitars and piano, chiming electric guitars, mellotrons and organs, harpsichords, sleigh-bells and more. The harmonies are spotless. The melodies are thick with memorable hooks and beautiful turns of phrase.
Some of my other favorites on Jollity include the absolutely gorgeous “A Rose In A Garden Of Weeds” which is one of several tracks featuring spectacular orchestral arrangements by Dave Gregory of XTC.
You can order Jollity from Sugarbush Records directly (click here) and it includes a special seven-inch 45-RPM single with two versions of “It’s Nice To Be Nice.” There is even a picture disc version of the album!
If you want to catch up on some of my past Pugwash reviews, please click on the titles that follow to read about: The Good, The Bad & The Pugly (a recent album of previously unreleased recordings), The Olympus Sound (recorded at Abbey Road!), Silverlake (produced by Jason Falkner), Almond Tea (their debut!) and Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) which was recorded at The Kinks’ Konk Studios and was their first album to be distributed in America (by Omnivore Recordings). There are also several “Greatest Hits” type compilations out there including the most recent called Popularity Pending: 20 Years of Pugwash (released in Japan)
You can also find the A Rose In A Garden Of Weeds compilation (also issued by Omnivore) quite readily available — it is a good place to start if you’ve never listened to Pugwash. That album is streaming up on Tidal (click here) and Qobuz (click here). Heck, its even on Spotify (click here) so anyway you like to listen, please do check out Pugwash.
Pugwash is pop music royalty waiting in the wings. Many wonders await you…