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School of Language, The Exchange, Bristol (April 23, 2014)

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School of Language, The Exchange, Bristol (April 23, 2014)

Posted on 23 April 2014 by Joe

Full of smiles, School of Language kicked off their Spring tour in Bristol, with an amiable and fun gig at the Exchange. Although a solo pop/funk project of Field Music’s David Brewis, this tour has a full band feel with his brother and Field Music co-creator Peter on drums, along with Hazey Jane’s Andrew Mitchell on guitar, Andrew Lowther on bass and The Futureheads’s David Craig on synth.

School of Language

School of Language

Even before they started playing the audience were aware this is a band with a sense of fun, as they made light of having to be their own roadies by taking to the stage to set up in ‘Field Music Productions’ branded caps and boiler suits, smirking throughout.

A quick change into shirts and in David’s case a rather smart grey suit jacket and they take to the stage, with smirks turning to smiles as one member of the audience shouts out “where’s Devo” in reference to their earlier attire.

David is on the road to promote Old Fears his second School of Language album. Although unmistakably Field Music with its angular chops and changes, it is a far more funkier/pop affair, with Prince’s Dirty Mind as an influence.

Live the guitars are much more to the fore, giving the album a far more Field Music feel, which in particular for tracks such as set finale So Much Time, give David and the band a chance to really show off their intricate playing.

School of Language

School of Language

Highlights were key Old Fears tracks such as Between the Suburbs as well as highlights from his first school of Language album Sea From Shore, especially Rockist (Part 1) which was greeted with rapturous applause.

During each song David is exemplary in his focus, concentrating on hitting just the right notes and just the right intricate guitar lick as he interweaves superbly with Mitchell.  Peter too on drums is full of focus playing the drums like he’s operating some kind of giant computer from the 1950s. All throughout they give each other knowing smiles. This is a bunch that clearly enjoys the whole process of performing and making music, something that the audience really picks up on and revels in.

Thankfully David and the band didn’t slip into any Field Music songs, even to fulfill a an audience members’ encore request for “covers.” In the end the encore was turned down “not because I’m being coy, we just don’t have anymore songs,” explained an apologetic David at the end.

Barbarossa

Barbarossa

Support was provided by London’s Barbarossa, a synth, drums and beards duo who are also on Field Music and School of Language’s label Memphis Industries. Their sound quality wasn’t as clear and crisp as School of Language’s with one particular bass buzz driving a few to the toilets, but there was enough tonight to know this is a fine act, with vocalist James Mathé superb singing, which is reminiscent of Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis, shining brightly among their electronica. Mathé tells us that a new album is in the offing and is one I’ll be looking out for based on this performance.

By Joe Lepper

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School of Language – Old Fears

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School of Language – Old Fears

Posted on 08 April 2014 by Joe

Every few years Field Music’s brothers David and Peter Brewis venture into solo waters; Peter in 2008 with The Week That Was and David in the same year and this year with School of Language.

At times its hard to distinguish these different acts, all are unmistakably Field Music and David’s second School of Language album Old Fears is no exception, with his brother as well as other Field Music regulars also contributing.

school_of_language_old_fears_album-500x500

But there are some small, notable differences. Field Music’s more recent releases have a greater focus on guitar interplay and a 70s production, whereas The Week That Was and School of Language have more of a 80s feel to them, with the latter venturing into pop funk at times.

On this latest School of Language release David Brewis is even channelling his inner Justin Timberlake, particularly on the slick track Dress Up (see the track’s excellent Talking Heads style video here). He admitted to The Quietus recently that rather prog and inventive rock by the likes of XTC and King Crimson, it is the pop of Shalamar and Prince that are his key influences on this album.

There is indeed some great pop on display, with Between the Suburbs and Dress Up in particular standing out. But the album still lacks the knockout killer pop blow that was Sea From Shore’s Rockist Part 1. That track’s beatboxing vowel intro proved a highlight of that debut but thankfully there’s still some similarly inventive vocal work on this latest release, most notably on the track Suits Us Better.

Despite the pop feel to Old Fears, the Field Music progressive rock sound is not far away and there’s still plenty of the King Crimson and XTC-esque guitar trickery that has typified Field Music’s most recent releases,  especially on tracks such as Distance Between, Small Words and A Smile Cracks. The production though is far cleaner, dazzling with a Top of the Pops 1983 shine rather than chin stroking with a Top of the Pops 1975 straggly-haired prog rock vibe.

The main point to get across when reviewing this album is that, yes, it is a solo off shoot project from a much loved band, but no, it is no diversion. It has the same core Field Music sound that has garnered a growing fan base and a Mercury nomination (for 2012’s astonishing album Plumb), albeit with a slower, relaxed, chart friendly groove.

8.5/10

by Joe Lepper

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