Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: Pugwash - Play This Intimately (as if among friends)

A truly great rock and roll record is supposed to have a bit of violence associated with it. After all, it's built into the name of the genre. We talk about people's worlds being "rocked" when they are turned upside down by turmoil and tumult. Successful records are declared to be "hits" and "smashes!" "Let's rock and roll" has become synonymous with engaging in any sort of decisive action, from starting a long road trip to starting a long war. Even the sexual connotations associated with rock and roll are more violent than not. Rock and roll sex isn't gentle lovemaking, its two, at least, frenzied people trying to screw each others brains out.

However, this music is also about breaking the rules and not giving a damn about what is "supposed" to be. Good thing too, because its how we wind up with records like Play This Intimately (as if among freinds), Pugwash's intricate and subtle triumph.

This isn't to say that the record is devoid of energy. "Kicking and Screaming" starts the album off in glorious pop/rock fashion. It's all chiming guitars and all pop hooks all the time. "Hung Myself Out To Dry" is a bouncy and jaunty slice of pop magic of a vein well mined before in the Pugwash catalog, but welcome all the same. Nobody on earth does this sort of thing better than Thomas Walsh and company. "You Could Always Cry" effects a pop/country/folk vibe complete with chugging train harmonica. When you listen to it you hope someone is back there playing their washboard.

As good as the quicker songs are it is the slower material that pushes the album to its greatest heights. "Lucky in Every Way" offers a lush and tuneful soundscape that floats on your ears like a cool breeze on a summer's day.... or something like that. I swear whenever I hear it I just want to open a couple bottles of wine and sink into bliss. "Oh Happy Days" sounds like it was pulled off the Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society sessions, which is probably why Pugwash got Ray Davies to help with the backing vocals on the track. It is damn near perfect.

"All The Way From Love" is a Roy Orbison's style crooner positively dripping with style and substance. The album ending track, "We Are Everywhere," takes the moody mellotron vibe of "Blue Jay Way" and tweaks it into something even more substantial. When it ends, announced by the boom of a last bass drum, you know you've been on one hell of a trip with your good friends in Pugwash.

So go ahead. Rock and roll.

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