You have ten seconds to strip the New Pornographers naked. Take away their soaring harmonies. Take away their invigorating drumming. Take away their male-female vocal interplay. Take away their clever lyrical literacy. Take away their quirky-enough-to-make-you-smile hooks. Take away the pseudo-celebrity of Carl Newman, Neko Case and Dan Bejar. Take away their Canadianness. What do you have left? An English band called Field Music.
Pretty boring, huh? Not entirely. Despite its limitations, which manifest themselves through the stifled range of such songs as “Like When You Meet Someone Else” and “You Can Decide,” Field Music makes several admirable stabs at minimal pop on its self-titled debut. In fact, the band’s shortcomings only become apparent when looking at the album as a whole; its repetition of the same sunshine formula loses it flare right around the third track, when the record’s pace begins to slow.
With many of the songs flowing through a circular construction, riffs are clipped and the drumming is abrupt, forming tightly wound layers that loop to create a spiraling base for group’s three-part harmonies and unbridled but delicate piano. Such tracks as “Tell Me Keep Me” and “Got to Write a Letter” take tremendous strides with this construction. But many others, including “Luck Is a Fine Thing” and “It’s Not the Only Way to Feel Happy,” lose the crispness of the record’s more upbeat moments.
Considering the group’s connections to the Futureheads and Maximo Park, Field Music distances itself well from its fellow U.K. rockers, many of which get caught rehashing the same handful of influences. The XTC-inflected moments are surely apparent on Field Music, but even more so are the obvious nods to Brian Wilson. Having stepped away from its fleet, however, Field Music’s drive feels lost, and we’re left wondering why we’re even listening.
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