Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pugwash - Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) (2015, Omnivore) - a brief overview

It would appear that all the power pop sophisticates (i.e. hipsters) have been putting their eggs in one basket of late – this one.  If you haven't actually heard Pugwash you've at least likely to have heard of them, a Dublin outfit who over the course of the last decade or so have gradually been acknowledged as the great white hope for the aforesaid genre.  From what I'm able to surmise Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends), is the first proper album by the quintet to see an official US release.

The burning question is fairly obvious - can they possibly live up to the hype?  If anything else they're purloining inspiration from the best of the Anglo side of pond, stretching all the way back to the Beatles and Byrds, while seemingly taking hefty cues from the US mainland by way of Jason Falkner and Matthew Sweet.  An enviable start by many anyone's standards, and it's a formula that pays out convincingly on "Kicking and Screaming," "You Could Cry," and the deftly crafted "Hung Myself Out to Dry," squarely indebted to Jeff Lynne and ELO.  I'd be hasty in downplaying the merits of any of the above titles, but the persnickety side of me would be remiss if I failed to note that Pugwash strike me as a little too professional for their own good.  Play...Intimately is linear, impeccably considered and orchestrated to a lustrous chrome shine, that to the band's detriment is woefully short in the spontaneity department.  My only other quibble regards the abundance of slowpoke ballads (for lack of a better word) that function like a four-minute snooze button on an alarm clock.

At the end of the day, maybe I'm not a true Pugwash believer, but given the band's history predates Play... by more than a decade, I'd recommend you also investigate their career recap compilation A Rose in a Garden of Weeds.  As for their current record, Play is available directly from Omnivore, Amazon (at a particularly attractive price point I might add) and iTunes


Brian Peterson said...

Can't talk about Pugwash without mentioning their single greatest influence: XTC. Pushwash is my antidote for my starvation for lack of new Partridge material.

lucky said...

I agree 100% with your assessment. They were one of my favorite bands 5 or 6 years ago, but the overproduction, obsession with ELO, and the attempt to put some kind of 1970's FM radio sheen on their recordings has sapped the vitality of their music.

Interestingly, they are a very good live band so it may benefit them to go back to their roots a bit and spend more time writing and less time trying to produce what they envision to be the perfect recording.

Brian Peterson said...

I agree. Just bought the new one on iTunes and after the first listen, I'm a little underwhelmed. I was busy working at the time, so I need to give it more a more focused attention.

Rob-in-Brevard said...

Indeed, indeed. I agree with spavid about the better tracks from the new album as well as the over-production. The energy and spontaneity are lacking in too much of the album. I know they are thrilled to be able to record or mix at Abbey Road, bit it makes me wonder if they're getting a little spooked by the ghosts lurking about in that storied place.

I affirm what lucky said about Pugwash being a superior live act. Just caught them on their current tour, and I highly recommend their live show for an invigorating musical experience as well as Monty Python-esque humor. I laughed and enjoyed the music in equal measure.