Pugwash enjoyed rave U.K. reviews for its 1999 debut Almond Tea and even raver ones for its subsequent records. Along the way, strings have been recorded at Abbey Road and shoulders brushed with such luminaries as Ian Matthews, Glenn Tilbrook, and XTC’s Dave Gregory and Andy Partridge. Nods of approval are also in from the Mark Ellen/David Hepworth branch of the U.K. music press (which exists to regurgitate the Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Beach Boys, and Pink Floyd cover stories and to patronize any new group resembling any of those blueprints).
Giddy compiles some tracks from those earlier releases. Pugwash is seemingly the admirable antithesis of pretty-boy throwaway manufactured pop, but the album’s production suffers from being crafted to the point of ephemeral irrelevance, with preened and almost catchy-by-numbers songs and rather tedious lyrics. Pugwash sounds more like the dull bits of late-period XTC, Crowded House at its most repetitive, and Beck-lite. Giddy is the first release on Partridge’s Ape label, and he has proclaimed Pugwash songwriter Thomas Walsh a “saviour of modern pop” and “better than McCartney, fatter than Lennon”. Sorry Andy, joking aside, this is pop strolling in ever-decreasing circles trying to eat an image of its heroes. Oasis with brains is how one wag has described some of the songs.
But hang on. The case is far from closed and egg might quite possibly be all over wannabe critic’s face. For Thomas Walsh is one half of the Duckworth Lewis Method (a reference to the formula by which one-day cricket matches are decided when play is suspended). Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy is the other half. Its self-titled concept album about cricket, The Duckworth Lewis Method, is rumored to be influenced by the genius Noel Coward. It contains a track called “The Ball of the Century”, featuring the following gem from the perspective of batsman Mike Gatting, hapless recipient of an impossible delivery from (then emerging) spin bowler Shane Warne: “Jiggery pokery / Trickery chokery / How did he open me up? / Robbery muggery / Aussie skullduggery /Out for a buggering duck”. Now that’s giddy.