Field Music – Field Music (Measure)

Field Music’s third album, Field Music (Measure), marks a comeback of sorts for the Sunderland four-piece, coming after a two-year hiatus for the band’s two driving forces, brothers Peter and David Brewis.

During their break they have been busying themselves with solo projects.  For Peter 2008’s The Week That Was solo album, a masterpiece in 1980s production from the era of Heaven 17, XTC and others.

Meanwhile David’s solo album under the name School of Language was another highpoint of 2008, especially the wonderful opener ‘Rockist Part 1’.

Measure, a double album no less, sees the band move on yet another level. There are aspects of the sweeping, mazy songs on their eponymous debut as well as the jerky but more structured pop of second album Tones of Town, but a whole lot more has been added.

The XTC comparisons that are often thrown Field Music’s way are likely to continue, but other influences predating the Swindon new wave legends, such as Led Zepplin, Fleetwood Mac, even ELO, The Move and 10cc are also thrown into the mix.

David Brewis told Groupee earlier this year that the intention with Measure was to create something that was,  “quite sprawling musically and thematically – we didn’t want something that was easy to sum up.

“I suppose we were going for something more like (The Beatles’) White Album, (Fleetwood Mac’s)Tusk or (Led Zeppelin’s) Physical Graffiti, where the feel of the album comes more from its variety,” he added.

They’ve certainly achieved that. There’s a lot happening on Measure across the 20 tracks, pure pop in places, more experimental sounds and rhythms in others. All the while it is based in the main around the most simple of instrumentation, bass, guitar and drums and satisfying vocal harmony. Where keyboards, strings and brass are used it is rare but effective.

There’s much more guitar on Measure as well than the previous two albums, perhaps to make up for departure of keyboardist Andrew Moore during the hiatus.

In terms of tracks the two discs are slightly different. More of the punchy catchy tunes on the first, more invention and flights of fancy on the second.

The first six tracks on disc one are among the best, offering neat, perfect pop. ‘In the Mirror’ starts the album with a real sense of immediacy. ‘Them That Do Nothing is a more playful number, sounding like The Move’s Flowers In the Rain. ‘Each Time Is a New Time’, with its Led Zeppelin-style blues rock riff, changes tact again.

Others worth mentioning in the early part of the album is  ‘Measure’, layered with violins, like an XTC Apple Venus era song. ‘Effortlessly’ is straight out of Drums and Wires era XTC. ‘Let’s Write A Book,’ goes funk, but with added glockenspiel.

On disc two there’s a whole lot more quirky stuff going on. The tracks run into each other, offering different moods, and summing up the reflective, and yes measured, style of the album. Opener ‘The Rest Is Noise’ starts in an upbeat mood, before moving into the largely piano and prog-rock-esque ‘Curves of a Needle. ‘The Wheels Are in Place’, is reminiscent of Tones of Town tracks such as Working To Work. At the end the lengthy classical music influenced ‘It’s About Time’ wraps things up nicely.

Overall Measure is a well-crafted, beautiful piece of inventive pop drawing on some very English influences and set to feature highly on many best of lists come December.


by Joe Lepper


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