The concept of ‘staying in your lane’ is often viewed contemptuously. But if your lane is filled with bright, bristling Byrdsian guitar, why upset the apple cart? The Beatles, The Beach Boys and E.L.O form the template for Pugwash and they have been mining that seam of classic ‘60s and ‘70s FM pop/rock for almost 20 years.
Criminally under-appreciated in their home town, much maligned for their sepia tone yet lauded by the likes of Brian Wilson and Jeff Lynne. Thomas Walsh remains staunch in his dedication to his craft and new record ‘Silverlake’ is testament to that.
Opener The Perfect Summer sets the tone with nostalgic couplets like “I’m on my bike, I won’t be home for dinner. Three and in, the next goal the winner” perfectly evoking the innocence of juvenile japery. Imagery plays a massive part in Walsh’s song writing. Instead of laying out the whole story, like a Ray Davies, he sketches a series of little vignettes for the listener to add their own colour to.
What Are You Like? and Why Do I? follow suit, great melodies afforded plenty of breathing space within the recording. Space that can make some of the tracks seem as though they lack dynamism or are too simple at first. But with each subsequent listen the melodies get stronger and stronger before eventually ear-worming the shit out of you.
Better Than Nothing At All and Such A Shame ache with the lost love of ‘Revolver’, a song like For No One is a clear touchstone for these tracks. Walsh aims high with his influences but seldom fails to do them justice. Album closer Autarch is another highlight, all backwards guitar, jarring chord changes and swelling strings.
Walsh feeds you slice after slice of perfectly constructed, sweetly melodic pop. Although the songs are generally based around his vocal and his rhythm guitar, they’re all decorated exquisitely by the arrangements. Satisfying McCartney-esque, descending bass notes pepper the record, the lead guitar work too is particularly impressive.
Never one to bend or bow to trend or fashion – his ‘that’s and ‘them’s are still ‘dat’s and ‘dem’s – Walsh has often suffered from not fitting into various fleeting scenes. In the long run, he’s been better off. His body of work is testament to his talent as a song writer and ‘Silverlake’ is just the next instalment.
Pugwash are never going to re-invent the wheel, nor have they ever tried to. Instead, Walsh has been luxuriously slathering it in the grease of his own brand of west-coast, sunshine-infused pop. He continues to move forward while doffing his cap backwards.