Pugwash – Giddy

January 01, 1970

(Ape House)




Although Dublin’s Pugwash
have been around for a decade or so now, most of their work has been
distributed only in Ireland. This compilation finally introduces the
band to the wider world. Its tracks handpicked by Andy Partridge and released
on his Ape House label, Giddy draws
from the first four Pugwash albums (Almond
, Almanac, Jollity and Eleven Modern Antiquities).


Partridge’s interest in Pugwash is hardly surprising:
they’re a band after his own heart, partaking of a melodic power-pop tradition
with roots in the Beatles, the Kinks, the Zombies, Honeybus and the Beach Boys
and stretching through the ’70s and ’80s to the likes of ELO and Partridge’s
own XTC. Pugwash main man and songwriter Thomas Walsh (one half of the Duckworth Lewis Method, along with
Neil Hannon) has clearly studied the foundational texts attentively and is a
master in the art of the harmony-rich, hook-laden
pop tune. He also recognizes the importance of using the right tools to get the
job done, Pugwash’s instrumental arsenal boasting all manner of gear that
ensures maximum authenticity: Hammond,
harpsichord, Wurlitzer, flugelhorn, banjo, vibraphone, Mellotron, Chamberlin
and more. 


Paradoxically, the distinctly retro sounds associated with
this sort of instrumental roster have become the leitmotifs of timeless pop.
Pugwash add to that particular tradition with bouncy, perfectly formed tunes
like “Apples,” the endearingly vacuous “Nice to Be Nice,” the love song-cum-meditation on modes
of transportation, “Monorail,” and “Two Wrongs,” which
evokes “I Am the Walrus” via Oasis. While these songs are instantly
memorable, some of Pugwash’s strongest numbers are actually less playful and
lightweight, such as “Cluster Bomb,” an ornate exercise in
chamber-pop melancholia, featuring Neil Hannon on zither and a string
arrangement by XTC’s David Gregory. Also outstanding are tracks exhibiting a
slightly darker, harder edge, like the big and crunchy “Anyone Who
Asks” and “Black Dog”: catchy but not twee and more bittersweet
than sugary, these are tunes that E of Eels would kill for.


Offering an excellent introduction to Pugwash’s work that
underscores Walsh’s versatility as a songwriter, Giddy is an appealing calling card for fans of well-wrought,
psychedelically tinged power-pop.


Standout Tracks:
“Apples,” “Black Dog,” “Cluster Bomb,”
“Anyone Who Asks” WILSON NEATE


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