Field Music - Field Music
Just in case you'd gotten tired of listening to your Maximo Park or Futureheads albums, and how could you (shame on you), then a little gap will have opened up in your record collection begging to be filled with more fun and funky pop music from up north. So all hail to Field Music, made up of historical bits of both said bands and their debut long player, Field Music. Catchy title, be a good band name too.
We like Field Music. We're going to give them our coveted album of the week award. You may want to know why. Or you could just take our word for it. Say to yourself, these fellas know what they're talking about, let's just go out and buy the album and skip straight ahead to the next story. Which of course would be fine but then again you'll miss the other reviews. So over the jump with you, and be snappy about it.
Field Music list influences as far afield as Big Star and Thelonius Monk. Well there are certainly many bright jangly guitar parts and there's some piano there too. But ultimately this is a stirling sample of magpie pop, little sparkly touches of cheery pop influences from The Beatles to Kate Bush (Shorter Shorter), a touch of Ultravox synth (It's Not The Only Way To Feel Happy), the sparky pop of XTC (Tell Me Keep Me) and there's even a show of Ben Folds like 70s MOR piano and hand clapping on You Can decide.
Their often falsetto vocals, lots of backing harmonies, jangly piano and gentle guitars make this a far cry from the bulk of current English indie bands. That's not to say that they don't have any crunch to them, just that, as with Got To Write A Letter it's a more restrained crunch. The bounce without the impact. It often feels more American than English, in the way that the next to be reviewed Decemberists often feel more English than American. But hey, the world's a strange place. With a good reputation for an energetic live show, a bag full of top pop choons and a bunch of uber cool mates Field Music deserve their place on the Londonist play list.
The Decemberists - Picaresque
There's often an immense pleasure to be had from reading band bios. Take this wee snippet from The Decmberists
A few hours later, in a Turkish bath, they revealed their stories to one another between sips of a strange, tangerine liqueur. Not far from that spot, however, two young military dignitaries, appropriately lathered, overheard our two heroes' stories. Was it chance, then, that lead the four unsuspecting bathers to seek to return their soiled undergarments at the same kiosk where worked the poor, bespectacled Colin Meloy?
We ask you. What more do you need than that?
Has it prepared you for a toe popping pill tapping album of wordy quirky schizophrenic pop tunes from a Portland, Oregon sextet? Thought so. It's a bit like imagining Belle And Sebastian being thrown in a blender with They Might Be Giants with added accordian. No matter how prepared you are for one track you're always going to find something unexpected round the corner. One moment you're tapping your foot along to the bright and poppy horn work on 16 Military Wives and then wonder how the hell you ended up with the 8 minute sea shanty The Mariner's Revenge Song that manges to create a rising epic (with just a smidgeon of polka) out of banjo and accordian. Let alone the fact that it seems to be a tale of betrayal and loss told by a seaman stuck with his sworn enemy in the belly of a whale. At least we think that's what it's about.
Of course any album that opens with a lonesome prarie dog howl that then breaks into an Eastern European pop gallop is not going to be your run of the mill record. Maybe that's why This Sporting Life throws in a touch of Morrisey, cheesey Hammond and the beat to You Can't Hurry Love and includes the line: There's my Cochese looking down. Que? Throw in some gentle acoustic folkery, Eli, The Barrow Boy and some more haunting accordian on My Own True Love (Lost At Sea) and there you have it. Perhaps a little wordy for some and Colin Meloy's voice can take some getting used to but if you prefer your tunes with a literate bite then this may provide a hearty enough morsel.
Staind - V
Money may not be able to buy you happiness they say but Staind must have sold enough albums by now to at least try. Aaron Lewis's Massachusetts noo-metlers have a bit of a reputation for being a tad down on life. Their sudden rise to prominence came via breakthrough single, It's Been A While, which, guilty pleasures style, this Londonista quite liked at the time, and some kind of tiff with every music writer's favourite baseball cap wearing buffoon Fred Durst. The results of which were MTV rotation of the kind usually only granted by the Gods and shed loads of cash.
None of which seems to have cast much sunshine into Mr Lewis's world. Five albums, ten years and the angst still takes it's toll. Take a look at some of the track titles: Schizophrenic Conversations, Falling, Cross To Bear, Please, King Of Excuses, you know the kind of territory we're in here. Even as this review is penned we hear the words: I'm still wearing this miserable skin. This man needs some happy juice and NOW.
If you're a Staind fan then this is probably the album you're looking for. For everyone else it goes something like this. Aaron Lewis's voice has that raspy back of throat maudlin fervour so beloved of angst metal singers. The guitars go widdly up widdly down chugga chugga chugga crunch weeeeeeeeeekkkk, the drums go badom badom BADAM BADAM. Even the quieter songs (of which there seem to be many) follow the same formula, albeit with more widdly up widdly down bits. Look, that's three paragraphs, we've listened to the album, our civic duty is done. Can we go home now please?