I once berated Jenn Gannon for not liking Pugwash, arguing that you might as well say you don’t like puppies. My point was that enjoying a band whose blood type is Pop Perfection should be about as effortless as smiling at shots of a Labrador pup bounding through knots of bog roll. With the US starting to take notice (where Omnivore Recordings have released this new 12-song collection), I’ll humbly accept victory on this one.
My stance remains steadfast having rotated this sparkling new offering from the Drimnagh stalwarts who find it impossible to write a tune without an adamantine whistle-friendly melody. Play This Intimately… may bear instructions for small settings but there is nothing sedate about thumping opener ‘Kicking and Screaming’ or the beefy goodtime cheese of ‘Hung Myself Out To Dry’ (featuring regular mucker Neil Hannon on the ivories) and its sumptuous hook. The George Harrison sway of ‘Lucky In Every Way’ talks of falling down (a regular Thomas Walsh motif) and “trembling” as it buries itself in your ear, before Lady Luck arrives to save the day. ‘Oh Happy Days’ shuffles along briskly on a sweet acoustic groove with XTC’s Andy Partridge and some guy called Ray Davies providing backing vocals. There’s even space for a bit of spicy bossa nova on ‘Clouds’.
Readers of a certain age will remember the indelible mark left on our childhoods by kids-show theme tunes from the seventies and eighties. Back then, students of pop’s many guises, under the tutelage of finely crafted guitar-and-piano wonders by The Beatles, The Kinks, Beach Boys or ELO, crafted canny and catchy ditties that were full of primary-coloured glee and hooky structure. Think Benni Lees’ perky intros for Pigeon Street and Rub-A-Dub-Dub, or Johnny Hawksworth’s punk ho-down that preluded every episode of Roobarb and Custard. Listening to Play This Intimately…, it occurs to you that the moxie and inspiration of those days is not dead. It’s still alive in people like Walsh, Tosh Flood and the rest of Pugwash. The late George Byrne, legendary Dublin rock scribe and longtime friend of these national treasures, would be very proud. We certainly are.
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