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A review of...
Open Here by Field Music
David and Peter Brewis (and friends) are Field Music, and this is Field Music's sixth album proper. Right from the off you can tell there's something a bit different going on here. The record opens with "Time In Joy", a slow burner. It's pretty downbeat, and seems a million miles away from Commontime's raucous introduction ("The Noisy Days Are Over"). There's no wailing or bendy funk bass, instead it opens with some mysterious (backwards?) synth like sounds, a sad sad vocal and some equally maudlin, but striking strings. Its a wonderfully understated opening, but it's also a bit of a red herring, as the track - all of a sudden - completely shifts gear. We get those power bass lines and some pleasingly OTT flute work (from Sarah Hayes) and what seems like a million other instruments, yet it still sounds remarkably coherent. If you had any doubt in your mind that this band were about to run out of ideas (are you a madman??) then those doubts will have faded away from around the album's 2 minute mark.
I see "Count It Up" as a continuation of the great pop tradition of songs that list things. Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire" being the obvious king of that sub-genre. To their credit Field Music do seem to have a clearer message in their list, and a serious/important one at that. Then there's the phat synthesizers, 1980's style vocal samples, and when the angry, but minimal drums kick in it sweeps you up in a big ball of pure Brewis.
As always, Open Here contains its fair share of solid gold pop. However, it's all married with some distinctly non-pop elements. For example, where did that off-kilter guitar solo come from on "Goodbye To The Country"? It sounds like John Dwyer was hanging out in Field Music's Sunderland studio and decided to join in. Which is probably quite unlikely.
Where certain tracks on this album revel in their quiet orchestral subtlety (see "Open Here" or "Cameraman") we also get tracks like "Share A Pillow" which is a stomping slab of Classic Rock excess. It actually reminded me of fellow Wearsiders Hyde & Beast (which in turn reminded me of a plethora of quality 70's glam rock acts). Maybe there's some sort of tradition, or at least a shared appreciation, of Glam-Rock in Indie-Sunderland.
"Find a Way To Keep Me" closes the album and it's a thing of beauty, a crashing culmination of everything that's gone before it. It feels like everything has been thrown into the pan for one last hurrah. Taking on George Martin and maybe some choral elements from Scott 4 ("The Old Man's Back Again (Dedicated to the Neo-Stalinist Regime)") along with Field Music's own thoroughly modern slant. It's a mouth watering sample of what's in store for anyone who's got tickets for Field Music's forthcoming live dates (many of which feature a full "Open Here Orchestra").
Most importantly though, despite the clear myriad of influences, this is a Field Music album through and through. And whilst Peter and David Brewis are the driving force, the huge array of new and semi-regular collaborators (Liz Corney, Pete Fraser, Simon Dennis, a Cornshed Sisters choir and a string quartet made up of Ed Cross, Jo Montgomery, Chrissie Slater and Ele Leckie) help to mould this album into something hugely ambitious and satisfying (even by Field Music's standards). Its got all their hallmarks. Their catchy guitar hooks, their dry humour and satirical digs and their sweeping orchestral flourishes. Essentially it's another absolute beauty of a record in a long line of them. Where will it end??