Friday, February 3, 2012

Plumb From Field Music: A Review Of The New Album

The Brewis brothers from Sunderland, England, are back again with the fourth Field Music album, Plumb, out 13 February on Memphis Industries.

The record is a concise delight, cramming 15 songs into the space of barely 35 minutes. The tracks flow into each other in a casual, almost almost off-handed, manner.

It's an odd mix of tightly constructed post-punk pop and a sort of loose, nearly improvisatory feeling jazz rock -- the lovechild of Gaucho and Duke -- as the keyboards ripple and bass thumps.

From the Randy Newman-meets-XTC glow of opener "Start The Day Right" to the funky and Talking Heads-ish "A New Town", the songs rocket along. Cheery -- on the surface -- and decidedly tuneful, this is great stuff for anyone who grew up on Todd Rundgren, early Devo, and XTC.

If that sounds like an odd and unwieldy mix, it is. But there's not any peer to Field Music. The tunes here feel familiar but they are decidedly different.

"A Prelude To Pilgrim Street" sounds like a show-tune -- Sondheim for Sondheim haters? -- but "Guillotine" sounds like Mick Karn playing slap-bass behind an old Lindsey Buckingham solo cut.

"So Long Then" captivates like Gary Numan covering The Divine Comedy -- Imagine "Please Push No More" as sung by Mr. Hannon -- and that segues into "Is This The Picture?" which clangs and sways Be Bop Deluxe.

The a cappella "How Many More Times?" leads into the chamber pop of "Ce Soir" and the final double-punch that closes the record.

"Just Like Everyone Else" features some exquisite guitar work with pounding drums that reminded me -- gasp! -- a tiny bit of early U2. Calm down; this isn't the same sort of mock heroic nonsense.

No, this is indie pop that recalls the more produced moments of The Lilac Time. There's something pastoral here despite all the modern touches. It's really a nearly undefinable quality even if so many of the pieces in songs like these are so familiar.

"(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing" comes on with the sort of yearning last heard in one of those rare Daryl Hall solo cuts produced by Robert Fripp.

Plumb is surely -- even here in early February -- one of 2012's best albums. It's hard to imagine more inventiveness making its way to my ears anytime soon.

My only criticism is that the songs sound a bit busy at times. Still, that's a minor quibble when that busyness is so infectious. The Brewis brothers are full of ideas and they've managed to cram a lot of them into 35 minutes.

That is most undoubtedly a thing to be praised.

All hail the heirs of Partridge and Moulding.

Follow Field Music on their official website (where you can order the album wherever you are):

They've got a Facebook page as well: