Track By Track: Field Music — Plumb

Because I dread the thought of writing yet another album review where I spend hundreds of words trying to frame an album in the proper context, or where I try to find yet another way to write about chord progressions, I’m just going to take it one song at a time and share my first impressions. So here we go with the fourth studio album from Field MusicPlumb.

Field Music - PlumbI’m still really digging the new Van Halen album, so this is a pretty significant gear shift. But as loyal readers should know, Field Music is easily my favorite “modern” band out there, so I’m gonna make it happen.

This is a good time to be a Field Music fan, as the Brewis brothers have kept a pretty busy schedule since their 2005 debut album was released. Unfortunately it seems as if the group will not be coming to America to support Plumb, but at least I have a new album to dig. So let’s get to digging.

“Start the Day Right” — A much less jarring album opener than “In the Mirror” was for Measure, but no less dense once things get going. A vaguely Genesis-esque synth/strings intro gives way to a very satisfying main riff and the trademark Field Music sound. David and Peter share lead vocals on this one, which is over rather abruptly.

“It’s Okay to Change” — A murky, groovy percussion-heavy interlude lasting just under a minute. It is indeed okay to change, and Field Music embraces that beautifully.

“Sorry Again, Mate” — I guess we’re looking at a song cycle of sorts, as these first three tracks bump right into one another. The intensity gets dialed down a notch on this one, a typically beautiful and lush piece of orchestral pop. Great vocals melody on this one.

“A New Town” — Is that a melodica I hear? Sounds like one. Nevermind, it’s time to groove! Love that slinky and smooth rhythm the boys are cooking up here, along with a very catchy chorus. Field Music could easily move into the whole dance pop realm and do quite well. This is the standout track thus far (also the longest one on Plumb).

“Choosing Sides” —  Whoa, now this is different. The intro sounds like incidental music to some freaky kids show from the ’70s, which is a total compliment by the way. It then moves into the angular guitar pop territory that is the band’s bread and butter (or whatever the English equivalent of that is), before taking yet another turn. Damn, the boys sound restless.

“A Prelude to Pilgrim Street” — The brothers are clearly not satisfied with trotting out the same indie pop album after album, which is great. The band’s DNA is clearly present here, but we’re exploring exciting new territory here. I guess this is indie pop-prog, to apply a clumsy label?

“Guillotine” — I’m reminded of Peter’s excellent The Week That Was album, the style of which has clearly continued to pop up in Field Music’s songwriting since then. Dark and dense but never oppressive.

“Who’ll Pay the Bills?” — The brothers throw the windows open and let some fresh air and sunlight in. A fun pop number backed by a bubbling, low-end synth part.

“So Long Then” — And we’re back into our moody place. Just the pluck of bass and the ping of piano to carry things along until the end. It’s clear, more than halfway into Plumb, that this is not going to be an instantly accessible record. It will take a little time to digest all of this, but I can guarantee that it will be worth the effort.

“Is This the Picture?” — Another driving and insistent mid-tempo piece. Not much to say about this one right now.

“From Hide and Seek to Heartache” — I hate to keep repeating the same descriptions over and over, but “beautiful, lush orchestral pop” is really the best one I can think of. After I’m done listening to this a few more times I’ll invest in a thesaurus.

“How Many More Times?” — Field Music a cappella. 40 seconds isn’t nearly long enough.

“Ce Soir” — I could totally see the brothers also tackling a classical music project at some point. The string arrangements on their records grow increasingly sophisticated, even as pop hooks are sometimes sacrificed.

“Just Like Everyone Else” — Love the guitar chords on this one. That is one thumping rhythm section.

“(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing” — And just like that, it’s over. If memory serves this was the first single released for Plumb, so it’s interesting to see that it actually closes the album. I really need to get my hands on a lyric sheet for this, but my CD copy hasn’t arrived yet.

Plumb is clearly the sound of Field Music as a developing artistic unit. It’s a more concise statement than Measure, and what it effectively does is to meld that albums more accessible songs with the experimental ones. The result, at least on first listen, is an album that lacks the immediate punch fans have heard in the past. There will be some work involved in peeling the layers back on this record, but if any current band has earned the right to assign some homework it’s Field Music.

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