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FIELD MUSIC Making a New World gets 5.5/10


Field Music

Making a New World
Memphis Industries/Redeye

5.5/10

Sounding ever increasingly like a noodlier version of 80s Genesis, prog poppers Field Music have dared to be uncool for the past decade and have got away with it thanks to their excellent ear for a tune. Unfortunately latest effort Making a New World finally sees them come unstuck, as they dial down on the pop and throw a few too many ideas into the melting pot.

Making a New World is a concept album about World War I, initially starting as an audio-visual accompaniment to an exhibition by the Imperial War Museum. The record’s conceptual beginnings are evident on the first two tracks, Sound Raging and Silence, which open the album on a theatrical note with the sound of background chatter and footsteps. Unfortunately they’re symptomatic of the album’s biggest flaw: it has 19 tracks and far too many of them are either instrumentals or ‘conceptual interludes’ (read: underwritten songs). Pink Floyd these guys are not, as their bread and butter has always been jittery and catchy dance pop rather than atmospherics.

There’s a lot of culprits, with (deep inhale) I Thought You Were Something Else, From a Dream, Into My Arms, A Common Language Pt. 1 and 2, Nikon Pt 1 and 2, If the Wind Blows Toward the Hospital and closer An Independent State all being either clumsy prog jams or boring ambient space-fillers. Even tracks like the more fully-fledged Between Nations are mired by lethargic prog jamming. The band’s sound is just too intentionally stilted and low-energy to make these instrumental workouts stick.

It’s when the band settles for less is more that the record shines. Coffee or Wine is a charming mid-tempo pop rock track, and Do You Read Me? is a great call-and-response number with the type of bouncy groove that Field Music were born to play. It’s about the first transmission from air to ground control in 1917, one of a few pieces on the album that are tied together lyrically by time and place. The album concept, when it’s touched on, is about the effect of the past on the present, and on how the more things change the more they stay the same. It’s an excuse for the band to charter some lyrical territory you won’t hear anywhere else and it’s best exemplified on these pop tracks.

Money Is a Memory is a great XTC-esque pop number whose lyrics concern the repercussions of the massive reparations levelled at Germany by The Treaty of Versailles. And finally there’s album highlight Only in a Man’s World, a song about the about the shaming tactics used in advertising the first sanitary towels to women. Trust Field Music to take on the topic of patriarchal control with a topic many have never heard of. It only helps that the song is underpinned by an insanely catchy bassline and a vocal delivery that would make David Byrne shed a tear.

These songs shine bright, but overall the album is bogged down by too much ‘concept’ and too little musical substance. Eventually Field Music will cave in, drop the progressive inclinations and deliver the consistent pop masterpiece that we know they have in them. That day will, unfortunately, have to wait, with some hints at greatness offered in the interim.

MATIJA ZIVKOVIC

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