Great news for Irish music lovers as Pugwash’s newly released single, ‘The Perfect Summer’, has gone straight onto the RTE Radio 1 playlist! The single, just released yesterday, sits in good company on the national station’s list this week alongside U2, Elbow, Gregory Porter, Paul Heaton and more.
If Brit Awards were handed out to Best Kept Secrets or Lamentably Lost Legends, Pugwash wouldn’t be able to move under the weight of their gongs. In the 20 years since the Irish band was formed by Thomas Walsh – an ELO, XTC and Beach Boys nut from Drimnagh, south Dublin – their reputation has grown by stealth and they’ve caught the attention of almost all of Walsh’s musical heroes, but mainstream success has remained frustratingly, tantalisingly just out of reach.
Well if it’s ever going to happen, it’s now, with the release of their seventh studio album Silverlake. It’s not only Thomas’s best body of work to date, but an album which leaves you marvelling at how effortlessly he can conjure up so many heavenly pop gems after all these years.
“I still live in a small house with nine guitars, a Dansette, a telly and a fuckin’ mellotron,” says Walsh. “I collect records and live hand-to-mouth. We’ve made some great records but most of them have gone nowhere.”
Silverlake differs from recent Pugwash albums in one major respect: it’s essentially a collaboration between two men – Thomas and Jason Falkner. (The four-piece who recorded 2011’s Top 20 The Olympus Sound and 2015’s Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) has now disbanded). As a former member of Jellyfish, respected solo artist, and musician, Falkner – who’s worked with everyone from Paul McCartney to Air – is another underrated artist with a hugely loyal international following. For fans of these two cult heroes (and there are plenty) this promised to be a dream ticket…and it delivers in droves.
Recorded in Falkner’s LA studio earlier this year, Thomas wrote all 11 songs, arranged them, and played acoustic guitar. Jason played everything else (except the strings), sang backing vocals and recorded/produced. The result is a classy pop-rock feast featuring Walsh’s endlessly hooky melodies and Falkner’s unmistakeable sonic footprint.
“I’ve known Jason for twenty years, so I rang him last Christmas and asked him what his next year was looking like,” Thomas reveals. “He said, ‘It’s fuckin’ full up, but if you’re saying to me we can make a record, I’ll make time.’ That was an amazing thing to hear. The minute I heard that I was hooked. I got excited again. Within a week I’d written all the songs.”
Opening with the irresistible single “The Perfect Summer” and closing with the Beach Boys/ELO homage “Autarch”, Silverlake wears its collaborators’ passion for pop perfection on its sleeve which, at the very least, will consolidate Pugwash’s standing in the eyes of those Thomas most admires.
In 2006 Brian Wilson’s manager David Leaf emailed him out of the blue, mentioning Brian loved the band’s recent single “It’s Nice To Be Nice”. “Brian was coming to Dublin to play and wanted to meet me…meet me!!” Thomas recalls. “He came and I met Brian. He said ‘Hey! You’re the “Nice To Be Nice” guy. I said ‘yes’ and he just said, ‘great song’!! I still think it was all a fantastic dream to honest.”
In the meantime, other ‘celebrity’ admirers got in touch, including XTC’s Andy Partridge who briefly signed Pugwash to his Ape label and co-wrote several songs with Walsh (XTC’s Dave Gregory also played guitar on some of the band’s earlier recordings), The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon – with whom he made two best-selling Duckworth Lewis Method albums – and Jeff Lynne.
“I arrived home late one night after an Olympus Sound session, knackered, to find a letter from the States,” Thomas recalls. “I nearly dropped when I realised it was from Jeff Lynne. I grew up worshipping ELO – I could tell you how many hairs there are on Jeff Lynne’s arse. He’s my idol. It was such a beautiful letter in which he said a lot of really nice things about Pugwash. He also said… ‘and I really liked the cricket album (ie, the first Duckworth Lewis album), but I didn’t think it featured you enough’. So I rang Neil straight away and said, ‘Neil, Jeff just sent me a fuckin’ letter. He’s slagging you and all in it, it’s brilliant!” After two decades Thomas has little to prove. Despite certain disappointments, he’s received great acclaim from where it counts – his peers and equals, plus Ivor Novello, Choice Music Prize and Meteor Awards nominations, and two Top 40 albums (with The Duckworth Lewis Method). The only way is up!
As Thomas concludes: “Some people have suggested, ‘Oh why don’t you change the sound of your music?’ But…I love the sound of my records! They ask if I would try something different. I could, but you can’t go out there and make a record just to please other people.”
Silverlake by Pugwash will be released by British indie label Lojinx on November 24th, on heavyweight vinyl LP, CD & digital. Lead single The Perfect Summer is out now on ice-cream swirl coloured 7” vinyl and digital.
Earlier this year, the Portland, Oregon-based Blitzen Trapper accomplished a unique feat for a rock band who has been releasing albums and touring for the better part of two decades: a staged musical titled Wild & Reckless that ran for 28 performances at Portland Center Stage. Today, the band is announcing a new album of the same title that was born from the stage production and as a companion to their 2008 breakthrough album Furr.
Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly premiered “Rebel,” the first single to be released from the forthcoming album.
“‘Rebel’ is a song about a guy who for the love of a girl follows in his father’s footsteps only to find it to be a scam,” explains principal and frontman Eric Earley. “After several tries at the American dream he ends up selling cocaine to blue bloods in the Hollywood hills. Something of a lost Raymond Carver story with shambling near-country soundtrack.”
The album Wild & Reckless was born from the stage production that the band spent the better part of a year producing. The half musical, half rock-opera dealt with heroin abuse, desperation, true love and western power structures. The story evoked a bygone era of Portland with this sci-fi love story, featuring a rock-and-roll score that paired unreleased songs with favorites from the band’s catalog.
Following the success of the production, the band took 7 original songs from the production and developed the theme further into the 12 songs that comprise the new album Wild & Reckless.
Frontman Eric Earley also sees the record as a companion and extention of their 2008 album Furr. “Wild and Reckless is something like a cross-eyed stepchild to Furr, in that it chronicles the darker dystopian stories of rural and suburban west coast death-drive via a riffing psychedelic landscape. Ten years after Furr with all its talk of murder and the end of the western world, it seems there’s more to tell.”
Blitzen Trapper is Eric Earley (songwriter/singer), Erik Menteer (guitar, keyboard), Brian Adrian Koch (drums, vocals), Michael Van Pelt (bass) and Marty Marquis (keyboard, vocals). Wild & Reckless was produced by Eric Earley and Michael Van Pelt and was recorded by Gregg Williams at The Trench, in Portland, Oregon. It was mixed by James Brown (Foo Fighters, Kings Of Leon, Blitzen Trapper’s All Across This Land) at The Union.
Wild and Reckless is available for pre-order now and will be released in Europe on British indie label Lojinx. Pre-order now on heavyweight vinyl LP, CD & digital.
Wild & Reckless tracklist:
2) Wild & Reckless
3) Forever Pt. 1
5) No Man’s Land
6) Stolen Hearts
7) Dance With Me
8) Love Live On
9) When I’m Dying
10) Baby Won’t You Turn Me On
11) Forever Pt. 2
12) Wind Don’t Always Blow
Portland folk-rockers Blitzen Trapper emerged as music industry critical darlings in 2008 with Furr, their shaggy fourth LP, which ended the year on a number of best of lists. Now, with a handful of albums and nearly a decade between them and that release, the band returns this fall with what frontman Eric Earley views as that set’s follow-up. Today, EW is thrilled to announce the Nov. 3 arrival of Wild and Reckless as well as share the set’s stomping lead single, “Rebel.”
Nancy Bos talks to Ken Stringfellow on the Every Sing Podcast.
Pugwash have been announced as main support for Divine Comedy dates in Ireland, this December.
4/12 – Cork Opera House
5/12 – University Convert Hall, Limerick
6/12 – Millennium Forum, Derry
7/12 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
8/12 – Olympia Theatre, Dublin
9/12 – Olympia Theatre, Dublin
An excellent review of Ken Stringfellow’s recent gig at Bar Loose in Helsinki. Read it in full, in Finnish, here: http://www.hs.fi/kulttuuri/art-2000005084921.html
Just announced! The Posies extend their Solid States tour with a run of dates in Spain in May:
- May 24 Porta Caeli Valladolid [tickets]
- May 25 La Iguana Vigo [tickets]
- May 26 Mardi Gras A Coruña [tickets]
- May 27 Super 8 Ferrol [tickets]
- May 28 Escenario Santander [tickets]
The Posies new album Solid States is out now on Lojinx CD, LP and digital.
an unabashed big sounding record.. deeply unfashionable and hugely enjoyable.
I decided to honor the band I put at #1 for their lengthy career of quality music, not just quality power pop. It may not have been their greatest career album, but it was excellent and worthy of the top spot
See the complete Absolute Powerpop Top 100 Albums of 2016 here.