Album Review Field Music - Plumb4 Stars
A move into a brave old world.
After achieving the meaningful feat of making a double album where major criticisms didn’t centre around the fact that the band could have cut, oh I don’t know, half of the material, Field Music have progressed past any “courageous” labels and straight into “to be trusted” territory. This, it appears, is a band who know how to move beyond the bounds of the genre space they might be associated with. Then again, they’ve been telling us that for years now. The band once famously claimed that they ‘want to do things that aren’t classed as “Field Music indie band,”’ and they’ve done nothing but prove it since, with ‘Plumb’ standing as their most impressive monument to that fact yet.
The Sunderland quartet’s fourth album sees them ditch any semblance of connection to the musical movement they sprang up from but, rather than setting out to make that ever-elusive “original sound,” instead choose to latch onto a wholly new set of influences. Gone are Wire and Gang Of Four, in come XTC and Electric Light Orchestra. This isn’t “Field Music indie band,” this is “Field Music pop band,” and they’re a pretty bloody good one.
There’s no doubt that the shifting tempos and tones of their previous work remains, as well as a new layer of sonic invention (see: the literal bubbling behind the funk-enhanced shimmy of ‘A New Town’), but the focus is now very much on pop’s parasitic asset – melodies that beguile and burrow into your head and stay there, re-emerging at their leisure. Strings swell the youthful soul of ‘From Hide and Seek to Heartbreak’, buzzsaw guitars mask the piano anthem hidden underneath ‘Guillotine’ and numerous interludes litter the album, introducing and segueing into new ideas seamlessly, allowing the band to create tuneful melody after tuneful melody, leaving little time for filler.
By the same token, that complete focus does somewhat reduce the impact of the band’s own input. ‘Plumb’ never ceases drawing on the past, meaning a good deal of the material feels a little played-out upon first listen - even when tracks like “How Many More Times?” or “Ce Soir” look a little further past straight ‘70s pop. Even when they do slow down and allow for some room to stretch out, songs like ‘Choosing Sides’ don’t quite bridge the gap between “interesting” and “innately enjoyable”, but the pace is such you’ll soon have heard three more songs that satisfy that need. It’s certainly an odd mix, and not necessarily one that feels fully-formed just yet but, then again, if ‘Field Music (Measure)’ proved anything, it’s that even when the Brewis bros. and co. are trying something, they usually do it better than most.
Sprightly, desperately alive and joyously nostalgic, ‘Plumb’ sees Field Music waving an exultant goodbye to the shipwrecked post-punk revival they’d always been wary of and sailing into classic art-pop waters. In fact, final track and lead single ‘(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing’, in its dual use as introduction and finale sums this up perfectly – in its jerking, guitar-led style it both drew the old fans in and acts as, quite possibly, a final farewell, explaining its paradoxical position as the most traditionally “Field Music indie band” track on the album whilst its subject deliberately tackles the group’s preoccupation with moving away from that tag. ‘Plumb’ is the “new thing,” and it’s a move into a brave old world.
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