Field Music - Commontime

by Jim Harris Rating:7 Release Date:2016-02-05

I’ve never quite gotten Field Music but there was some release a few years back where someone said they were the modern day equivalent of XTC and this tweaked my interest. I checked out an album of thiers which was odd, alternately sedate and poppy, pastoral, I suppose and, like much of XTC, off-kilter from the alternative mainstream just enough to keep you interested in what they were attempting.

Then they lost me completely when they put out a covers album, but this two-brother band from Sunderland, England are clearly supremely talented as their song structures are dense and layered most of the time, sometimes sparse and other times cluttered. Anyone who would tour as the backing band for the lead singer of the Fiery Furnaces has got to be categorized as weird and creative and talented.

But with  Commontime and its consistent foray into jazz and funk, while clean and as perfectly executed as anything Steely Dan has done,  it also comes across as icy and precise as Steely Dan at times.  And while their jittery, jerky guitars and funky synths conjure up the Talking Heads on occasion, Field Music still have a difficult time escaping the Art Rock mold as David Byrne was able to do.  Field Music, like XTC, are an acquired taste.  What I liked particularly about XTC was Andy Partridge’s guitar always elevated the quirky stuff and took it to another level.  I’m not feeling that with Commontime.  Their songs, as with the opening track, The Noisy Days Are Over, just don’t quite get noisy enough, and even when they try a mini-opera track like Trouble At The Lights, there always seems to be something missing.  Field Music go in so many directions and misdirections, and then hang horns and synths around it all, it just gets a little hard to digest.  And perhaps this is exactly what they want to convey with their art house musical mentality.  But I still don’t quite get them.

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