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Postcard from the edge of stardom

It came as no surprise that the most eclectic music show on Irish radio should be the first to play the new Pugwash single Answers on a Postcard.

Ronan Collins' show is a marvellous melting pot of musical styles, a place where you can hear Sandy Denny beside Duke Special before Led Zeppelin gives way to Dickie Rock. The show's presenter is still clearly in love with pop music, particularly 60s-based songs with impeccable harmonies and imaginative arrangements, which is why Pugwash don't sound out of place alongside the greats of the genre.

Given his love of the Beatles, it's fitting that Thomas Walsh and his band should eventually end up on EMI, which releases The Olympus Sound on August 19.

On Pugwash's 1999 debut Almond Tea, the inside sleeve of the CD contained the instruction 'File Under: Power Pop' and over the course of Almanac, Jollity and Eleven Modern Antiquities (not forgetting the interim Australian compilation Earworm) Thomas and his evolving band haven't deviated from their aim of providing lovingly crafted melodic songs.

Even Brian Wilson -- another of Walsh's idols -- is aware of Pugwash (well, in as much as Bran Wilson is really aware of anything) and when introduced to Thomas at Vicar Street two years ago asked, "So, you're the It's Nice to Be Nice guy?" an acknowledgement of the Pet Sounds-like arrangement which adorns what's arguably the band's best-known song.


The Beach Boys' connection was extended further with Nelson Bragg, the percussionist in Brian Wilson's band, appearing on several tracks on Eleven Modern Antiquities and even appearing onstage with Pugwash when they played a memorable show in Whelan's, special guests that night also including XTC guitarist Dave Gregory (who's written string arrangements for several tracks) and Neil Hannon on keyboards and backing vocals. Hannon, of course, collaborated with Walsh on The Duckworth-Lewis Method, the cricket-based concept album which surprised many by proving a huge hit in 2009.

Answers on a Postcard is a seemingly effortless slice of pop which breezes along and even features a kazoo in its instrumentation. With a limited edition available on vinyl 7-inch adding to the classic feel that Pugwash aspire to, the link-up with EMI seems even more appropriate. The future looks quite bright for this brilliant band.

> George Byrne

>Pugwash play Whelan's on August 11, with The Olympus Sound released the following week