The Olympus Sounds
Duckworth Lewis Method singer returns with career-best solo album.
Rating: 8 / 10
Ed Power, 22 Aug 2011
If Duckworth Lewis Method was Neil Hannon’s I’m Still Here Moment – a reminder to an uncaring world that he hadn’t gone away and still had interesting things to say – it also served as an overdue validation for Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh. A one man Beach Boys/ ELO revival, the affable Crumlin songwriter had spent the best part of a decade authoring candy-lacquered power-pop that offered gorgeous homage to the sixties and early seventies whilst never quite losing its footing in the here and now and tipping into pastiche. For all his sweat and strain, he was roundly ignored, by media and punter alike (a source of deepening resentment, judging by the interviews he gave at the time).
Everything changed when he struck up a friendship with Hannon, recenty relocated to Dublin from London. Both were that rarest of creatures: Irishmen who adored cricket. Four pints into a confab one night, they hit upon one of those ideas that really only make sense when you’ve been imbibing – with the historic Ashes tournament between England and Australia on the way, why not pay tribute to their favourite sport via an old-fashioned concept LP? To their shock, when the hangovers cleared the idea still made sense.
From there, things must surely have been a blur for Walsh, as Duckworth Lewis Method were feted with sell-out concerts, swoonful reviews on both side of the Irish sea, an Ivor Novello songwriter nomination. For an artist whose previous career highs had included supporting Dave Couse at The Hub, the sense of having at last arrived was surely overwhelming. How many mornings, you wonder, did he wake up thinking he’d imagined the whole thing? All of a sudden the invisible man of Irish retro pop had his name up in lights.
Post-Duckworth Lewis Method, the fairytale continues. Incredibly, Walsh has been snapped up by a major label and his new Pugwash album actually arrived preceded by a degree of anticipation (let’s hope it doesn’t do so well as to reduce the chances of a DLM follow-up – if the world needs anything right now it is a wry concept record about the joys of competitive croquet).
From the start, it’s obvious Walsh has seized the opportunity by the lapels and is determined not to let go. Bigger, shinier, more ambitious than Pugwash’s previous four albums, The Olympus Sounds is not only the best thing he’s ever done under his regular pseudonym. It’s also a worthy follow-up to the The Duckworth Lewis Method’s sublime debut, one that will hopefully demolish the misapprehension (particularly prevalent in the UK) that DLM was a Hannon solo affair in all but name.
Fair enough, nobody is going to hand Walsh a gong for outside-the-box thinking. Whatever else, originality has never been one of his strengths. From the first chiming note of ‘Answers On A Postcard‘ he isn’t coy about his influences, steering, as he does, a hazy route between Village Green Preservation Society Kinks, ELO circa ‘Mr Blue Sky’, and Beach Boys in their Holland, post-Brian Wilson goes bonkers phase. Deploying harmonies, multi-tracked vocals and bouncy melodies with abandon, ‘Be My Friend’ is Macca on a Vitamin C binge; ‘Kilocycle Tone’ takes the Beach Boys ‘Little Honda’ and goes freewheeling without any brakes. There are gentler moments too. Dear Belinda is a dewy-eyed strum-along that waxes Fleetwood Mac mellow; ‘I Don’t Like It But I Gotta Do It’ could be Ram-era McCartney fronting Belle and Sebastian around the time of ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’.