Album review: Field Music – Open Here (Memphis Industries)

Field Music are brothers David and Peter Brewis from Sunderland in the north of England and Open Here is their seventh album in 14 years, not a bad work rate for a band that took a two year sabbatical after its first three releases. Part of the reason for this is the limited commercial success that Field Music has enjoyed, which proves that it takes more than broad critical acclaim to make it in the music biz today. There’s nothing like being broke to inspire song writing it seems, that and the fact that they were evicted from their studio half way through this album must have focussed the duo on doing the job well.

It’s possible that Field Music are just too clever for the art-pop audience that their music should appeal too, there is a lot of prog influence throughout this remarkably accomplished album but it mixes it with new wave influences to create something quite exceptional. The sound is upbeat and energetic but more sophisticated than usual, something like Talking Heads meets XTC with the occasional lapse into Peter Gabriel era Genesis, albeit the punchy drums and juicy bass lines have nothing in common with those days. The songs are clearly influenced by the reinforcement in parenthood’s privations brought on by David’s second child, the line “spend some time on me” in opener Time in Joy being very telling. Here Peter’s powerful and precise drumming is counterpointed by keyboards and offset by Sarah Hayes’s flute and piccolo alongside strings from Ed Cross, Jo Montgomery, Chrissie Slater and Ele Leckie, but it’s the arrangement that makes it interesting. At once immediate yet gymnastically twisting and turning, it’s prog disguised as pop to great effect.

Count It Up is a direct and powerful dose of liberal guilt couched in big beats that have a strong eighties influence but thankfully come from real drums. Front Of House is a short, sweet string and flute infused break from the bombast while Share A Pillow turns up the tension with guitar backed beat and a brass powered chorus. George Martin style strings bring respite on the title track and reveal another facet to the Brewis bros palette whose use of harmonies works very effectively. Goodbye To The Country brings to mind Hall & Oates of all things, it’s the vocal contrasts rather than the socially aware and frankly belligerent nature of the lyrics that draw the comparison.

While there is a fair degree of compression in this production it works on a decent system so long as you don’t push the volume, that and the clearcut separation of instruments and voices make it worthy of concentrated listening. If nothing else this will let you appreciate the efforts that have gone into the effervescent sound that gives the songs a more positive vibe than close scrutiny of the lyrics might inspire. The Brewis brothers are clearly not that impressed with the state of the nation, and coming from a strongly pro Brexit part of the country, are somewhat at odds with their neighbours. But the anger that this provoked has been honed into some fabulous songs that deserve to make Field Music a force to be reckoned with.

Jason Kennedy
@EditorTheEar

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