t’s much better to be late to the party than to not show up at all. Months after releasing their self-titled debut to positive critical response in Europe late last year, Northeastern UK trio Field Music have finally brought their throwback rock ‘n’ roll sound across the pond for a North American release.
First and foremost I want to avoid, at all costs, using comparisons to other bands when talking about Field Music. We’ve all heard that they come from the same musical scene/movement that has given us The Futureheads and Maximo Park (Field Music, in fact, have some direct membership ties to each band). Many other bands have been tossed around—The Beach Boys/Brian Wilson, Wire, Revolver-era Beatles—in order to reduce the band’s sound to a set of signifiers. The fact is, though, Field Music is much greater than the sum of its comparisons.
Brothers David and Peter Brewis, along with third player Andrew Moore, craft songs that are complex in their simplicity. The ambition comes in the musical arrangements. These are songs that veer to and fro, frequently sounding as if they’re nearly about to run off the rails. We’re never quite sure which way each song will take us, but this just adds to the fun. The production, as a result, is kept to a minimum, giving it the feel of a classic pop album—most tracks are delivered with an antiseptic cleanliness. Even the audible washboards and cowbells of “If Only the Moon Were Up” are never overbearing, distracting, or out of place.
It’d be tempting to call this music safe: there are no crashing and pounding drums and cymbals, no throbbing, distorted, overloud guitars, no vocal wailings of extreme emotion or atmospheric pitch. There’s nothing rushing to get in the way of a great melody. But I’d prefer a different word: comfortable. Field Music is comfortable enough to know that they can use keyboards and piano instead of guitars on tracks like “Pieces” and “It’s Not the Only Way to Feel Happy.” And it’s this decision that elevates these songs from good to sublime.
That Field Music lists bands and musicians like Serge Gainsbourg, Big Star, Stravinsky, My Bloody Valentine, Thelonious Monk, and The Neptunes as influences should not come as a surprise. These boys have a solid understanding of how to create great pop music. This is not the type of music that can come out of a “scene,” it’s the type of music that comes from a group of people who love all forms of music and can appreciate the commonalities a wide variety of artists bring to the musical table. Sure, this party may have started in Britain, but this music is completely universal.
Reviewed by: Matt Sheardown
Reviewed on: 2006-04-24