Audio Mixer: Guy Massey.
Recording information: Konk Studios, North London; Sun Studios, Dublin 2; The Menagerie.
Photographers: Julia Ewan; Brain Hickey.
Next time someone tells you they don't make pop records like they used to, prove them wrong and point them in the direction of Irish pop celebrants Pugwash. Thomas Walsh and his bandmates have mastered the fine art of approximating classic pop and gentle psychedelia of the '60s and early '70s, and Walsh writes songs good enough to pass for covers of classic British acts of the era in dim light, mirroring their melodic splendor rather than reworking familiar cliches. The group's sixth studio album, Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends), is not as rich in guest appearances from pop universe luminaries as some of Pugwash's previous album (of course, having Andy Partridge and Ray Davies pop by to do backing vocals is nothing to sneeze at), but in the truest sense this demonstrates just how talented this band is. By their lonesome, Walsh (on vocals, guitars, and various keyboards), Tosh Flood (guitars and keys), Shaun McGee (bass), and Joe Fitzgerald (drums and percussion) are capable of re-creating a number of musical worlds, from the clean but swaggering rock of "Kicking and Screaming" and the languid psychedelia of "We Are Everywhere" to the faux-exotica of "Clouds" and the country-folk charm of "Oh Happy Days," and while nearly everything here harkens back to another time and place, Pugwash make it sound fresh, immediate, and directly from the heart. (And the production from Walsh and Flood is ideal and unobtrusive.) Some bands trade in second-hand nostalgia, but Pugwash have used myriad reference points from the '60s and '70s to create pop music that's beautifully crafted, fresh and thoughtful, and best of all, lots of fun. Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) could use a few more uptempo rockers, but considering how good these 12 songs are, there's little real room to complain, and Pugwash prove that yes, some folks really are making 'em like they used to, and with the same skill and honest love of a good melody. ~ Mark Deming