SCQ Rating: 79%
Oh, Field Music. Every other year the Brewis brothers unveil a new record of McCartney-sized hooks, precise instrumental shifts and tuneful segues, which is hailed as a modern masterpiece and then shrugged off by the end-of-year lists’ deadline. Hardly a jilt on the part of the UK press, I too have personally treated Field Music with unstable parts admiration and neglect. The dynamic song-craft nearly bursting the seams of Tones of Town and Measure caught my ear immediately but wore off just as instantly. (For what it’s worth: the only Field Music release I’ve held onto over the years doesn’t even get a mention on the duo’s official website – and in Write Your Own History’s case, my loyalties remain rooted in nostalgia.)
Is it possible that Field Music’s original approach to pop music, whereby they collect a myriad of colourful ideas then imbed and stitch them to a cohesive composition, fares more memorably on a technical level than in our music-loving consciousness? Field Music’s reputation as novel songwriters is undeniable even in the Americas, yet they’ve failed to gather many perks that other English bands from the mid-00’s post-punk arena who’ve already peaked and crumbled. The band’s inability to keep pop simple may be key to the giant divide between critical success and commercial wherewithal.
Well even if Field Music’s orchestral and proggy dissection of pop music provides merely a temporary delight, I can’t deny that Plumb has transfixed me yet again. Tightening their focus after 2010’s bold, twenty track affair Measure, David and Peter Brewis lust after a slightly more aggressive vein of complicated pop this go around, as heard on the Zeppelin-esque guitar licks that climb over “Start the Day Right”’s woozy strings. With chamber-pop tendencies being relegated to Field Music’s always-cluttered margins, gorgeously unpolished guitar tones become central on tracks like “(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing” and “Is This the Picture?”. Each song still carries the duo’s knack for whimsy (“Ce Soir”, “A Prelude to Pilgrim Street”) while branching into the unexpected (the funk-tinged “A New Town”), and yet none of it feels overwrought or showy. Field Music will always be eccentric but Plumb stands to make their niche more universal as the most focused showcase in a career reconstructing pop.