Field Music: Commontime

Sunderland brothers’ return charms and challenges.

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Despite coming from a decidedly indie-oriented scene, David and Peter Brewis’ artfully off-kilter brand of pop has increasingly been embraced by the kind of prog fans who admire pop that’s prepared to tear up its own three-chord template and go on an adventure.

Their 2012 LP Plumb saw them perfect a marriage of unorthodox chord patterns with wrong-footing rhythms and freewheeling song structures, which was widely appreciated round these parts.

However, with the brothers busy with side projects since then, a new Field Music album has seemed overdue. Thankfully, after all this time, they haven’t let us down. What’s more, they’re threatening to take their unique but often very accessible brand of prog pop to unlikely new audiences. The superbly funky opening track and lead single The Noisy Days Are Over has been given an unlikely endorsement than no less an authority on oddball funk than Prince, who tweeted a link to the track in December (since deleted, but they all count).

A spare but slinky Talking Heads-style bassline revs up a groove full of nerdy energy, lit up by a minimal guitar hook and glacial vocal harmonies. Things naturally head off-piste from there, even before the six-and-a-half-minute song has even finished, as squawking sax and spiralling violin and piano wind to a batteries-run-down close. Disappointed is similarly potent and immediate, but more daunting fare will greet anyone suckered in by such dance-floor-friendly fun.

An artful collection of genre-straddling guitar music.

The spiky thump and twang of I’m Glad echoes the jerky, caustic textures of XTC or Devo, and the tumbledown bassline and angular melody patterns of Indeed It Is sound like the pop textbook has been read upside down.

Even when the feel is a touch on the cold, calculating side, the aesthetics are still rich and evocative. The austere, faintly sci-fi keyboard synthscapes that pervade Trouble At The Lights, for instance, recall Low-era Bowie as the brothers talk of_ ‘racing through the breaking glass’._

They can soothe just as well as they can unnerve, too, as we discover thanks to the beautiful Mariachi-style horns that grace swoonsome reverie The Morning Is Waiting, and the Beatles-y strings accompanying They Want You To Remember.

All of which contributes to a brilliantly artful collection of genre-straddling guitar music. ‘Why don’t you grow old like everybody else?’ they ask on The Noisy Days Are Over. In an era where rock’n’roll’s demographic goalposts have moved, to the point where it’s hard to find a major festival headliner under 40, it sums up an album of adult pop that doesn’t have to play dumb, and neither needs nor pretends to be 16 any more.

Johnny Sharp

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock