Monday, April 14, 2008

Write Your Own History - Field Music (SCQ Spring 2008)

Write Your Own History

Field Music
Memphis Industries.

SCQ Rating: 76%

B-side compilations rarely present the best material for first-listen experiences. Not only because you’re usually hearing songs that were released at the insistence of opportunistic labels who see a band on the rise (instead of the band itself, who are usually apprehensive about showing off work they purposefully withheld), but also because b-sides are usually failed experiments. When I first heard Write Your Own History – at a record store listening station, ten minutes after getting off a greyhound bus to visit friends – I had no idea that I was hearing b-sides, nor who Field Music were. A minute-long peek at each of these nine songs hinted at a record of great promise and I hastily bought it, unaware that its insane import price would actually be as high a number as the minutes this album consists of (28 min., so you know). That I’m still happy to own this record should inform how good it is.

Although ‘Trying to Sit Out’ and ‘Breakfast Song’ may be brief, they were written and arranged with the weight of any three-minute pop song. Of Field Music’s several talents, their ability to throw a wide variety of ideas into a whirlwind two-minute song is certainly their unique gift. Take single ‘You’re Not Supposed To’, a blender-mix of vocal harmonies and piano/guitar pop that never feels too busy. Even the quiet strums of ‘I’m Tired’ are bolstered by a backing string section and subtle laptop beats, guaranteeing that Write Your Own History never gives in to its undernourished running-time.

The quality of this recording only admits its compilation status in the sequencing, which is ordered reverse-chronologically (2005 back to 2000) to offer a history (like its essay-plagued artwork) of the band’s sonic evolution. The stitches necessary to seam these songs casually together are audible – few tracks here naturally flow into one another – but what’s impressive is how neither side of this history outshines the other; their work from the turn of the century is as assured and inviting as the single from their self-titled album in 2005. Write Your Own History isn’t mind-blowing work, but as a collection of their failed experiments, it’s a telling indication of how brilliant their A-game material must be. Just try to find it at a better price...

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