Album Review: Field Music – Making A New World

Making A New World

Never ones to take the easy option, Field Music have always made a habit of standing apart from their peers.

Formed during the indie revival of the mid 2000s, brothers David and Peter Brewlis had close links with other inhabitants of Tyne and Wear (members of both The Futureheads and Maximo Park have featured in their ever-evolving line-up). And while mainstream success eluded them until a Mercury nomination in 2012 (for fourth album Plumb), they always seemed content to plough their own furrow.

Indeed, after second album Tones Of Town in 2007 the pair went on hiatus before it was fashionable. Over the last decade and a half since they’ve worked on numerous other projects but the mothership of Field Music was never far from either’s orbit, keeping relatively prolific since being endorsed by none other than Prince back in 2015.

Making A New World is their third album in four years and stems from a project the band undertook early last year for the Imperial War Museum. It’s quite convoluted, but the central theme comes down to imagining the long-lasting effects of the First World War and how they have shaped the world we live in today.

The album starts as two tracks representing the sounds at the minute leading up to 11am on 11th November 1918 and the silence thereafter. Sound Raging is a subtle opener, with shimmering effects over acoustic strum, and as such it’s hard to imagine how it represents what was surely a cacophony of unimaginable noise, but you get the idea.

The album continues in chronological order. The ever so-slightly honky-tonk of Coffee Or Wine outlines the journey home from war, A Shot To The Arm covers how the horrors of war lead to the Dada movement, which in turn lead to the extreme performance art of the late 1960s, and so on. Eventually we are brought relatively up to date, with Money Is A Memory detailing the final payments made by the German Treasury in 2010 as agreed within the Treaty Of Versailles.

So as a concept (for a concept album is what it is), it’s fascinating. As a piece of music, sadly less so. Structured over 19 short songs, there is very little substance, the eclecticism over-cooked. Several tracks are dominated by one instrument; Between Nations a nagging synth, Do You Read Me? held together by rattling drums and Beyond That Of Courtesy little more than a simple guitar chord. The simplicity of the instrumentation doesn’t feel like it represents the subject matter with enough gravitas.

And yet the highlights are high indeed. Only In A Man’s World is deliciously filthy shimmering funk and segues well into Money Is A Memory, a spiritual son of Bowie and Lennon’s Fame. Elsewhere, the wonky Best Kept Garden sounds like a stoned, less frantic Vampire Weekend, and A Change Of Heir features guitars akin to Paul McCartney’s (good) 70s output. Taken on their own these tracks sit comfortably alongside Field Music’s finest offerings. There’s just not enough of them.

Full marks for effort and conceptual imagination, but Making A New World sadly falls short sonically.

5/10

Richard Bowes

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