Tuesday, March 16, 2010
(Measure) - Field Music (LIVE March 19th at Horseshoe Tavern!!)
SCQ Rating: 75%
A chance-happening at a listening station first introduced me to Field Music, when the multicoloured verbosity of their Write Your Own History caught my eye. Standing there listening to the first minute or two of each track suggested an outstanding record, one worthy of forking over the insane import-price of $30, and although the entire nine-track disc ended up running shy of twenty-seven minutes, I’ve never regretted the purchase. Still, the slight disappointment I retain from that anecdote brings to mind a key reason I hold the Brewis Bros’ work at a distance: their songs are criminally short. And when Tones of Town added complex structures to their abbreviated tunes, Field Music seemed to be darting toward a thousand lovely possibilities but burning out before owning any of their ideas.
All that said, the surprise to (Measure) isn’t that it exists – c’mon now, every good hiatus lasts about two years – but that Peter and David Brewis have returned with a record that, stitch for stitch, remedies each of my shrugging critiques. I crossed my fingers throughout the lush menace of ‘In the Mirror’, which moves as svelte as headlights across a darkened bedroom, hoping they wouldn’t shift into a symphonic, McCartney-esque stomp or a tepid a cappella moment. They didn’t. Not only does (Measure) focus on and flesh-out a generous handful of Field Music’s countless great song ideas, it easily earns its reputation as Field Music’s least cute album. Sure, a slice of its maturity may seem superficial (for those of you who don’t find the idea of a two-disc, seventy-minute Field Music album completely absurd), but (Measure) would be just as brash and tough if you cut half of these twenty tracks. While the clean acoustics of ‘Them That Do Nothing’ climb over a steady rhythm, ‘All You’d Ever Need To Say’ touches up on yesteryear’s blues-rock. Unlikely as it may seem, Field Music somehow evokes a polished Broadway-bound Led Zeppelin on many of these tracks, from ‘Precious Plans’’s six-string rumination to the garage-y breakdown of ‘Share the Words’. Stranger yet, it’s a brawny direction that seeks to showcase - not undermine - the songwriters’ well-honed cleverness and orchestral charms.
Of course if Field Music remain ambassadors of anything, it’s as English-pop purveyors who never close any door and (Measure) – no matter how focused, how well-bricked – certainly tests the genre-pool over its twenty tracks. The nine-minute ‘It’s About Time’ may befuddle its purpose between minimal string quartet and field recording and ‘Let’s Write a Book’ doesn’t mind uncrating weird 80s presets that call to mind the Ghostbuster soundtrack, but these asides don’t distract from what (Measure) ultimately achieves: a commanding epic from a band accustomed to punching out half-hour art-pop records. So if you’re in the Toronto area this Friday, be sure to grab tickets to see Field Music play the legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Need another reason? Um, the Clientele… It’s going to be one of the best Horseshoe shows all year.