Following a self-imposed three-year hiatus, the UK's Field Music returns with a new 20-track double-album of artful English pop. Powered by brothers and co-frontmen Peter and David Brewis, Field Music's line-up now includes Kev Dosdale (guitar and keys) and Ian Black (bass). The new album (self-titled but identified as Field Music (Measure) to distinguish it from their debut album) is a gloriously rich LP that entwines the brothers' renewed love of the rock music canon with a rediscovery of some of pop's overlooked adventurers. If one listens closely, one might hear echos of Led Zeppelin, Bela Bartok, Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Miles Davis, The Beatles, Bowie, Richard Thompson, PJ Harvey, Crazy Horse, Erik Satie, Kate Bush, Talk Talk, Lou Reed, Brian Eno, The Blue Nile, Pierre Schaeffer, Roxy Music, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Todd Rundgren, and Discipline-era King Crimson. In terms of breadth and quality, it trumps the band's first two well-received albums, 2006's self-titled and 2007's Tones of Town, as well as the brothers' solo efforts--Peter's The Week That Was and David's School of Language project Sea from Shore. Standout tracks are the dissonant funk of Let's Write a Book (a call-to-arms for the perpetually apologetic), the mutated blues rock of Each Time Is a New Time (a riposte to misplaced faith in repetition), the driving, splashing pop number Them That Do Nothing (about a valiant willingness to make mistakes), the multilayered melodic riffery of The Rest Is Noise, and the epic found-sound song-cycle that starts with See You Later.
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A sprawling, but deep experience that is simply unforgettabl
Cale E. Reneau | Conroe, Texas United States | 02/18/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The last time we heard from Field Music was on 2007's phenomenal Tones of Town, an album that turned out to be one of the decades best - a sleeper-hit if there ever was one. If one could even find a flaw in that album, it would most likely be its brevity; clocking in at barely 30 minutes. Well it looks like the Brewis brothers are trying to make up for lost time because their latest release, Measure, is...a double album! If you're like me, the very term makes you uneasy, what with all the memories of bands who have been unable to hold a normal person's interest over the course of two whole CDs. Field Music, an unlikely candidate for such an endeavor, actually does a pretty decent job. While Measure may not be as instantly classic as its predecessor, it does have a wealth of music on it - both in length and depth!
On the band's previous albums, emphasis was placed heavily on piano-led compositions with expertly-crafted string compositions. The guitar, an instrument at the forefront of any modern band, was assigned to accompaniment duties, rarely getting a chance to lead a song's instrumentation. However, Measure is a very guitar-centric album, and it has more of a rock feel as a result. One could logically assume that this is due to the departure of keyboardist, Andrew Moore, but Measure is all the more interesting for it. David and Peter have the opportunity to shine in places where they had yet to fully display the depths of their talent (at least with Field Music). All that to say this: don't be too caught off guard when the album's opener features minimal, distant keys and heavy guitars.
The guitar-led awesomeness continues, most notably on "Each Time is a New Time," "Clear Water," or album centerpiece, "Let's Write a Book." The latter song features an incredibly funky bass line throughout, creating a groove that is wholly inescapable. Lead guitars are relegated to sparse but sexy flourishes. Still the highlight of the song has to be its instrumental bridge with an absolutely schizophrenic synth line accompanied by an equally crazy mallet part. Measure's first single, "Them That Do Nothing," is just as good, but in an entirely different manner. Of any of the album's great tracks, it alone sounds like something that could have fit nicely on their past albums. It's pop sensibilities and catchy melody are undeniable, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't listened to it on repeat at least a few times already.
Despite the fact that Measure is - by and large - a rock album, I've found that my favorite moments still lie in the album's poppier tracks; the two aforementioned tracks included. Disc 2's lead-off, "The Rest is Noise" is an absolutely stunning track as well, with a building melody that finally erupts into a mind-blowing (by Field Music standards) guitar breakdown! The album drifts solemnly into "Curves of the Needle," a slow, gorgeous song with heavy-handed Queen stylings. Even the lyrics "Oh to be young again/ to be loved again!" sound like they could have been ripped from Freddie Mercury's songbook. "Choosing Numbers" follows that track, showcasing an infectious composition and a passionate 80s-ballad-esque climax that people are bound to scratch their heads at.
While Measure is a terrific album by most standards, it is certainly not an easy one. The sheer size of the thing is at once its greatest draw and most-considerable burden. Simply put, there are some songs that require deeper listening to fully appreciate and you may find yourself skipping over them to get to the songs that you love immediately. For this, I'm glad that if the band was going to release a double album, they at least split it up onto two CDs. It makes the whole experience more manageable. At the same time, Measure does have a small handful of songs that probably could have been left off the album entirely without me batting an eye. While every song on here is worth listening to, I doubt many will always want to. In that way, Field Music has fallen into the same trap as most artist who try to tackle the double-album concept. Where the band exceeds is in creating something to which I'll continually return. Like a great novel, Measure is something you have to stick with in order fully understand and appreciate. Though I've only had it in my possession of a matter of days as of this writing, there's still so much for me to get to and discover! That's a feeling one rarely gets in the music world, so when it does appear, take note. You've stumbled upon something special.
1. "Them That Do Nothing"
2. "Lights Up"
3. "Let's Write a Book"
4. "The Rest is Noise"
5. "Curves of the Needle"
8 out of 10 Stars"
Field Music - Field Music (Measure) 7/10
Rudolph Klapper | Los Angeles / Orlando | 03/03/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A song like the supremely bouncy "Effortlessly" or the jagged rock of "All You'd Ever Need To Say" might fool listeners into thinking that Field Music have merely refined their power-pop aesthetic from 2007's Tones of Town, but cherry picking a few tunes here and there from what is undoubtedly an intimidating album would be doing the band a disservice. Despite its eminently poppy nature and the accessible way the brothers Brewis continually harmonize, Measure is the kind of album that requires multiple listens to fully appreciate, a record that mixes David and Peter's disparate natures into something that might be called prog-pop. It's there in the dangerous opening lick of "In The Mirror," where a threatening guitar riff raises the tension only to be deflated by the intensely jovial, intensely British pastoral jaunt of "Them That Do Nothing." It's an odd juxtaposition and one that immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album, a theme that can be succinctly summed up with one cliché: expect the unexpected.
Sure, there's your typical XTC homage in the jittery "Each Time Is A New Time," your odd hint of David Bowie in the title track, and the brothers do a damn fine John and Paul impression on their flawless harmonies, but Field Music slowly and surely develops into its own beast as the first disc melts into the second. The little things you may have passed over in your first cursory listen to things start to pop out. The sharp angles and meticulously designed jabs and fuzzy riffs of the brother's preferred mode of expression, the guitar, begin to take on a life of their own. A song like "Clear Water" defies easy categorization, as it runs the gamut from straightforward pop to murky experimentalism with little to no self-consciousness, while a tune like "Let's Write A Book" knows how to use the guitar to propel a song forward and not overwhelm it, instead coloring in the edges with a variety of hand claps, studio effects, and space-age synths.
But for all their musical exploration, the backbone of Measure is that standard rock triptych, the guitar, bass, and drums, with an emphasis on GUITAR. It defines every song here, driving the rhythm, framing the brothers' effortless harmonies, and creating riffs and passages often so deceptively mind-boggling that it's hard to appreciate them the first time through. It's what makes re-listening to Measure so pleasant, when one can see the band's craftsmanship in placing a gentle wisp of a tune like "Precious Plans" before the instrumental metamorphosis of "See You Later" or the way a song like "The Rest Is Noise," built on a number of layers, eventually disintegrates into the smoldering ballad "Curves of the Needle," everything resting on a foundation of superb guitar work.
It's also, unfortunately, what makes the album's running time such a tough thing to overcome, and while the band's finely constructed songs always stand out on their own, over the course of a twenty-song record things tend to muddle together into a haze of guitar and quintessentially British harmonies. As a double album, Measure lacks any concept or coherent instrumental theme (save maybe for the eternal importance of the guitar) to give it meaning, and thus makes what could have been two outstanding ten-song collections a rather staggering amount of material that too often fails to hold the listener's long-term attention. It's a shame, and really the only notable failing of Measure, but it's a big one. But for a double-album as immense as Measure and with little no filler that one might expect from such a grand project, it's a record that rewards its listener, especially if said listener is not averse to taking breaks and returning with a fresh head."