Field Music - Field Music (Measure) - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Field Music - Field Music (Measure)

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2010-02-15

"I wish I could change and make new rules" sings Peter Brewis, over an exquisitely discordant piano figure, on this record's opening track, 'In the Mirror'. Sunderland's Field Music - Peter and his brother David, who've also recorded as, respectively, The Week That Was and School of Language - proceed to attempt just that over 20 sprawling tracks, most of which contain a dizzying array of quirks: time signatures abruptly shift, keys change, riffs and melodies are introduced for seconds before the boys turn their attention to something else. Measure doesn't feel like an album so much as a sonic patchwork, fragments of songs being stitched together in a way that sounds haphazard at first, yet is in fact anything but. There's method in Field Music's madness, and it makes for a rich, complex and entertaining record that rewards repeated listens. The band's three-year hiatus since the release of 2007's charming Tones of Town - which tackled classic pop with unconventional arrangements and musical virtuosity - seems to have been spent not only working on side projects but also resolving to make music that is as intricate and esoteric as possible.

But that's not to say there aren't tunes here, and lovely ones at that. First single 'Them That Do Nothing' - recently compared by Soundblab, accurately, to Paul McCartney, a musician the band have acknowledged their debt to - is a gorgeous, sweet, summery thing, all chiming acoustic guitars, handclaps, and pleasingly wry lyrics ("Them that do nothing/Make no mistakes"). 'The Rest is Noise' is laden with lush harmonies, sounding like ELO, but with the odd excursion into Captain Beefheart territory. If that sounds odd, it's because spotting influences is difficult, so much do the songs jump from one segment to another. 'Curves of the Needle' typifies this, with its sparse, almost folky verses giving way to rich, Beatles-esque harmonies on the chorus. 'Lights Up' starts with a riff apparently nicked from R.E.M.'s 'Perfect Circle', but its languid, slowly-unfolding majesty bears more resemblance to Pink Floyd. 'Let's Write a Book' - the next single, surely - is a fabulous slice of jarring, disjointed funk, replete with a fantastic marimba solo and sleazy electric guitar licks. It really is a lot of fun indeed.

In the twenty tracks and 72 minutes of music, there is little that doesn't work in some way, but the record's incessant jumpiness will inevitably grate on some listeners. Literally every song contains at least one, or more likely several, changes in time signature and tempo, and you may find yourself wishing that the band would just settle down a bit and let the songs breathe. By the time you reach the excellent closing triumvirate of 'Something Familiar', 'Share the Words' and the 10-minute epic 'It's About Time', most of which is sparse strings and ambient noise, you will probably be exhausted, having been battered into submission by the Brewis' constant stream of ideas. But, despite being a little too smart for its own good, Measure fizzes with vibrancy and inventiveness, and underneath the cleverness and complexity there are some delightful and gleefully unfashionable pop songs. British music needs more bands like Field Music, who reject cliché, rejoice in strangeness, and are determined to make their own rules.

Pete Sykes

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