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The Commontime gents

It’s no secret that I love Field Music, through their fits and starts and hiatuses and occasional missteps (2012’s Plumb being a bit morose, in this author’s opinion, though it won the Brewis brothers an overdue Mercury Prize nomination). The four-song stint stretching from “Effortlessly” through to “All You’d Ever Need To Say” on Field Music (Measure) is one of the great art rock suites of our age—though on vinyl it is inexplicably torn between two sides—and I told the band as much when I met them in Canonbury’s Myddleton Arms, over several G&Ts, back in March. Continue reading The Commontime gents

Choosing which side of the plumb-line

My internal jury is still out on Field Music‘s new album, Plumb, but I can confirm it contains at least moments of brilliance. Presenting my first pieces of evidence: “A New Town” and “Choosing Sides“, which come in a third of the way through what is an extremely economical but fidgety LP (preview the whole thing here, thanks to NPR Music).

“A New Town” presents with us the band at its most complex. Following a reedy organ intro which sounds like the less disconsolate brother of Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack“, we get two rhythm tracks which are panned to the extreme; periodically, watery bubbles stream between the channels. The guitar-work veers between The Durutti Column-style intricacy and St. Vincent’s chunky shredding. There are so many layers it’s a wonder the song doesn’t implode.

Betraying the Brewis brothers’ love of proggy synth-work, “Choosing Sides” begins with a lilting, hey-nonny-no keyboard-driven passage, which then leads into the song proper. There are acoustic guitars redolent of prime-time Fleetwood Mac, the drums are crisp and intricate, and the vocal harmonies are as distinguished as ever. And then, before you get too comfortable, in the final minute there is a sudden change of time signature and the song does a volte face.

But I have a lingering feeling that the throwback-feel of Plumb, with its numerous shifts in mood and style, might not sit so well with me, in aggregate, as the pastoral-concept double album of Field Music (Measure).


Plumb is released on 13th February 2012 (UK) and 14th February (US), on Memphis Industries.

The return of Field Music!

Back in 2007, I got very very obsessed with the sophomore album from Sunderland’s Field Music, a 30-minute progressive punk art rock odyssey into the mundanity of small-town life. In borrowing the least lifestyle elements of Steely Dan and fusing them to a jerkiness that recalled Wire, the then-trio (comprised of the two brothers Brewis, and their friend Andrew Moore) created a masterpiece that provided concise chunks of song that packed in a multitude of musical ideas – from Billy Joel-esque piano, to crisp beatboxing. Tones of Town was magnificent, and its lack of fame was nigh-upon criminal. When the band announced they were going on hiatus, I practically cried myself to sleep.

Well now, via several intriguing side projects, they’re back. And in a more expansive mood, clearly, because their forthcoming third album, entitled Field Music (Measure), is a double album, with twenty songs that aren’t afraid to be less cohesive, in a manner apparently styled after Tusk and The Beatles. Predictably, I’m very excited, especially since the band (now a four piece, sans Moore) are whetting our appetites with two choice cuts from the album.

The first, “Each Time Is A New Time”, cruises in on a liquid bassline and some pretty FM-rock guitar, backed up by typically intricate drumming. When the vocals come in, the way they harmonise and interlock is sophisticated and aurally pleasing. Halfway through, the song cuts to a stripped-down passage that builds back up with insistently mellifluous guitar figures, wordless chanting and military percussion, before breaking straight back to the original riff. And then, in true Field Music style, it’s over.

The second sample, the title track, “Measure”, explodes from a suitably baroque string arrangement into a clanging, rustling, piano-led groove. The band has not lost its knack of combining the ancient with the modern, as the vocal interplay and hand claps (which sit alongside the strings, and some very steely guitar) will testify. The mood is wistful and meandering, interspersed with occasional shouts that recall Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac. As the song fades out to looped strings and a thrumming beat, I can’t help but feel a wave of relief that the band has stretched away from the brilliant style they had previously perfected, in order to explore new ground.

Both songs are little gems, and, wonderfully, both are available for free, from the band’s charming website. Field Music (Measure) is released 16th February 2010, on Memphis Industries, and promises to be one of the year’s most intriguing albums, not only in terms of scope and scale, but also in terms of the fascinating, filigree-like music it will contain.