Jollity, Pugwash’s third album, is easily Walsh’s most accomplished to date, his compositions fleshed out by some sterling strings and boisterous brass, the latter courtesy of the hugely talented Eric Matthews.
In a parallel universe, Pugwash mainmain Thomas Walsh is a living legend, regularly enjoying heavy radio rotation the world over, massive record sales and as widely respected as somebody like Ian Broudie, Neil Finn or Stephen Malkmus. In our world, however, somehow Walsh’s gorgeously melodic songs about love and loss have slipped under the collective radar. Always critically acclaimed, his compositions have bizarrely failed to create more than a minor ripple in the general consciousness.
I say bizarrely, because Walsh’s tunes are some of the most infectiously radio-friendly to come from this or any other island. True, he is sometimes too much in thrall to the Lennon-McCartney school of songwriting (‘This Could Be Good’), but if you’re going to emulate anybody, it may as well be the masters of the genre. Take the sheer exuberance of ‘Something New’ or the ridiculously catchy recent radio single and album opener, ‘It’s Nice To Be Nice’: I doubt you’ll hear a more perfect three minutes of finely-polished tunesmithery anywhere else this year.
Jollity, Pugwash’s third album, is easily Walsh’s most accomplished to date, his compositions fleshed out by some sterling strings and boisterous brass, the latter courtesy of the hugely talented Eric Matthews. Matthews isn’t the only well-known collaborator here, however: former XTC guitarist Dave Gregory contributes a veritable orchestra of instrumentation, as well as arranging strings for the impressive ‘Rose In A Garden Of Weeds’ and the mesmerising ‘I Want You Back In My Life’. Walsh’s other musical helpers include well-known Dublin-based musician and songwriter Duncan Maitland and Keith Farrell, whose other credits include Las Vegas Basement and Mundy.
‘Black Dog’, no relation to the Led Zeppelin anthem of the same name, is a gloriously upbeat mantra, helped no end by a shimmering brass section. Our hero also does a nice line in balladry, on the bittersweet ‘Poles Together’ and the lyrically superb ‘Waltz #714’. Then there’s the thirty-something reflection of ‘Even I’ and the disarmingly simple ‘Lullaby #1’ to be getting along with, before the closing ‘Anchor’ (co-written with Andy Partridge of XTC) comes along and finishes matters off on a harmony-laden, soaring paean to love found.
Hopefully, Jollity will be the album to align all our parallel universes and make Thomas Walsh as rich and famous as his plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face talent deserves.
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