Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is ‘Jollity ‘ by Dublin’s Pugwash.
The general public may only be mildly aware of Jeff Lynne endorsed Pugwash and the songs of Thomas Walsh. Commercial success has always proved elusive for the Drimnagh man and his band. However, it’s not outlandish to suggest their album ‘Jollity’ is one of the finest albums to come out of Ireland – ever. Walsh’s lovingly crafted bittersweet creations feature enough tongue-in-cheek lyrical gems and melodic porn to easily place him in the upper echelons of this island’s songwriters.
There is a kind of hazy-eyed, nostalgic sadness mixed with hope and frivolity emanating from these 11 songs that pay homage to classic pop and veer from psychedelic ponderings to multi-layered orchestrated pop.
“All of the bad/ but this could be good” Walsh sings on the album’s power-pop centre-piece This Could Be Good and indeed that is what he does best. He takes all the want, the hurt, joy and failure in life and packages it wonderfully in sound and words. There are so many levels to ‘Jollity’ – the musicianship, the lyrics and the musical dynamic. It never tires or becomes repetitive.
Single It’s Nice To Be Nice is a great ’60s sounding jaunt that recalls The Kinks and The Move. Avoiding depression is the subject matter of the Brian Wilson-like Black Dog but its Hammond organ, tremolo guitars and trumpets belie the introspective lyrical content. The strings on A Rose In The Garden Of Weeds, arranged by Dave Gregory of XTC, envelope a beautiful lilting melody which is resplendent in its simplicity while I Want You Back In My Life has you thinking of The Carpenters at their mournful best.
A snippet of Walsh’s talent for lyrical treasure can be found on the unconventional love song Poles Together, “We’re so far apart we’re so near/ we’re poles together, that’s what we are, together apart.”
Waltz #714 reveals an enduring love of the song-writing of the aforementioned Lynne and Roy Wood while Lullaby #1 and Anchor (co-written with Andy Partridge of XTC) bring to an end a hell of an album.
Pugwash would go on to make an even more cohesively brilliant pop record in 2012 with ‘The Olympus Sound’ and commercial success and acclaim would come for Walsh with Neil Hannon and their Duckworth Lewis Method project. However, ‘Jollity’ remains the key body of work from the early part of Walsh’s career. And it’s long overdue the recognition it deserves.
Did you enjoy this weeks edition of Golden Vault? Get involved, comment below and join us next week in the Golden Vault where we’ll be discussing ‘Music From Big Pink’ by the greatest backing band in the history of folk music The Band.