(6 Music Festival 2016 flavoured!) Album Review: Field Music – Commontime

By on Tuesday, 2nd February 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Field Music Commontime album coverPeter and David Brewis are two intelligent guys who don’t sit still for very long. Or ever. Sometimes I wonder if they’re just musical vampires and don’t sleep at all. Last year, the composed soundtrack to the 1929 documentary Drifters that they were commissioned to compose by the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival was released to the wild. In 2014, while David was putting together his latest School of Language album ‘Old Fears’, his older brother Peter went off with frontman of Maximo Park Paul Smith for their own LP ‘Frozen by Sight’. Last year, I also saw them moonlighting as part of fellow Sunderland musician SLUG’s (Ian Black) backing band at the Great Escape 2015. So yes, while the last ‘true’ Field Music album was 2012’s ‘Plumb’, they haven’t exactly been sitting around the Good Apple Cafe, twiddling their thumbs.

The most noteworthy thing news-wise that’s happened to the Brewis brothers recently is Prince’s apparent discovery of them in early December. Evidently, the Purple One had a pleasurable head bop to the first single off of ‘Commontime’, ‘The Noisy Days Are Over’, just as we have had here at TGTF Towers. (You can read Steven’s thoughts on the single here.) The inherent catchiness of the melody, matched with the always intriguing percussion of Field Music, is great already. But what makes the song truly a winner are the lyrics, which I think most people are reading literally as the acceptance of “getting on”, growing older and eventually the end.

I can’t help but read it within my own as well as in a musician’s context: those of us who are long past our school days but still go out to shows (or play them), who don’t do normal things like take the bus and go to bed at an acceptable hour, are looked upon as oddities and weirdos. It’s not that we’re going out of our way to be weirdos. It just *is*. To me, the song is a statement that we’re not going to change our ways. Which is something I feel must be a credo for this pair of talented bros. Throughout this delightful 14-track collection of tunes, there’s satisfying elements of pop and funk, sometimes together on the same track, and this combination with incisive lyrics makes Field Music what they are.

The Sunderland duo have pretty much cornered the market in art rock these days, and they don’t show any signs of changing their tune (no pun intended). With the off-kilter drums and guitars – neither of which I can be sure could be said to be leading or following – and its almost spat out words, ‘I’m Glad’ is bonkers, and amusingly so. ‘Same Name’ seems like a bunch of things were thrown into a pot at once – jerky guitar notes, other bits of noodling guitar, atypical drum patterns, piano chord crashes – and somehow, otherwise cacophonous, disparate elements manage to play nice enough with each other to come together as a relatively cohesive song. The vocal delivery of the verses of ‘They Want You to Remember’ is pretty pop, gently reined in to accompany a beautiful string section. But then the oom-pah-pah rhythm of the chorus comes in, and you’re reminded we’re not in mainstream land. Which is perfectly fine by me.

The other day I heard a Charlie Puth song called ‘One Call Away’. It’s not a terrible love song – it’s what passes for MOR pop on American top 40 radio these days – but the lyrics are pretty groanworthy. Contrast them to those of ‘Disappointed’, in which our protagonist asks for forgiveness for minor offenses in the context of a long-term relationship that seems to be a Pretty Good Thing otherwise. On the ultra funky and album standout ‘It’s a Good Thing’, the merit of giving up your singledom and pulling away from the pretense of “being fixed to the ocean” is explored: “It’s a good thing to give yourself away. It’s a good thing to give yourself to someone else.” And perhaps I’m the only one, but I can’t help laugh to myself when on a Field Music album I’m being sung to with a particularly clever line. In ‘Don’t You Want to Know?’, the listener is asked, “don’t you want to know what’s wrong with you?”, as well as encouraged (or perhaps mocked) to “time to use your brain”. Can you imagine the look on a top 40 station boss’ face upon hearing that?

‘Commontime’ also marks the return of keyboardist Andrew Moore, who hasn’t appeared on a Field Music album since 2007’s ‘Tones of the Town’. His contribution of twinkly notes and organ buzzes are appreciated on ‘But Not for You’, ‘That’s Close Enough’ (in which the piano stands up to a ghostly guitar solo) and the instrumental bridge of ‘They Want You to Remember’, where they are particularly effective. As mentioned earlier, there’s also a string section that appears on some tracks of this album, adding a level of smoothness (dare I say maturity?) to the proceedings. But fear not, this is still a Field Music album through and through, so there is *plenty* of weird and wonderful stuff going on.

8/10

‘Commontime’, the new album from Sunderland brother duo Field Music, is out this Friday, the 5th of February, on Memphis Industries. The brothers and their band will be appearing at the 6 Music Festival in a fortnight in Bristol (all the details here), and they will begin a UK tour in the last week of February (live dates listed here). For more on Field Music on TGTF, head this way.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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