Album: Field Music – Commontime

Released 5th February via Memphis Industries Records

9/10

You’d be forgiven for not expecting much from Commontime, the fifth album from the Brewis brothers, otherwise known as Field Music. The cover art is plain, the song titles are uninspiring at best (‘I’m Glad’, ‘Don’t You Want to Know?’, ‘How Should I Know?’) and the two brothers have spent the last few years working on their own projects as School of Language and The Week That Was, suggesting their collaborations are a spent force. But as soon as the lead single ‘The Noisy Days Are Over’ kicks off it’s clear the two are revitalised. It’s an absolute stormer, a taut, funky track that keeps its momentum over its six and a half minute run time, even erupting into a satisfyingly discordant saxophone solo. The brothers are singing about accepting middle age and living a quiet life, but they sound raucous and energetic as ever.

‘The Noisy Days Are Over’ showcases the whole of Commontime in a single track—the tight, trebly groove, the orchestral flourishes, the two brothers harmonising, and a slightly off-kilter drum outro. It’s by far the best song on the album, and the only truly essential track. However the rest of the album still manages to be really fucking great. ‘Disappointed’ starts off weirdly soft-jazz before erupting into an energetic plea to a lover to set their expectations low, before twisting yet again into a desperate ballad for the choruses. This hyperkinetic stream of ideas defines Commontime. ‘Trouble at the lights’ spends its first half as a slow lament, before erupting into an instrumental freakout. ‘They Want You To Remember’ starts out like a slower Talking Heads number, before disappearing into an orchestral bridge, before returning with full force, charging to the finish.

But really, the endless inventiveness isn’t the appeal here. Instead, what Field Music have managed to achieve is something only a certain few bands from the North of England can do. Like British Sea Power, the Arctic Monkeys (before they became impossibly dull) and of course Pulp, they take simple pop songs and create something occasionally genuinely transcending, brilliant and life affirming in a way that’s hard to describe. Commontime isn’t perfect by any stretch—at 14 songs and nearly an hour it’s too long, and it veers dangerously close to musical theatre on tracks like ‘The Morning is Waiting For You’, but Field Music have pulled a genuine blinder. But then again, Prince is a fan, so maybe it’s no surprise at all.

Tags: album review, commontime, field music, prince, Talking Heads

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