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A review of...

Play... by Field Music

October 1, 2012
John Wilson

The covers album –the last refuge of artists currently on a crash course towards the metaphorical creative brick wall or a chance to pay tribute to those that they admire? History has given us both good, bad and indifferent examples of these, ranging from the celebrated 1973 pairing of David Bowie’s “Pin Ups” and Bryan Ferry’s “These Foolish Things” to Duran Duran’s unfairly maligned “Thank You” from 1995 (yes, I do realise that I’m in a such a tiny minority that you’d need to employ the services of a jeweller’s eye piece to see it). Cover versions have the ability to enrich the original or indeed destroy them (see the annual X Factor Christmas Number One or anything by Michael Bolton) and with this in mind, Sunderland based brothers Field Music have released Play..., a limited edition addition to an ever growing list. First of all, this is a brief collection– lasting around 30 minutes and containing 8 songs (most of which have been heard before in different guises) and it clearly does not outstay its welcome. Kicking off with Syd Barrett’s “Terrapin” , it takes in a range of well selected covers, ranging from Robert Wyatt (in a pretty faithful version of “Born Again Cretin”) to Roxy Music’s “If There Is Something” (also once covered by David Bowie in his Tin Machine guise fact fans). Elsewhere, Leonard Cohen’s oft-covered “Suzanne” is pleasant enough although adds nothing new and John Cale’s “Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend” lacks the maniacal menace of the original. They also tackle the runt of The Beatles litter in the form of Ringo Starr’s “Don’t Pass Me By” which is transformed from the bouncy countrified dross of the original into a witty Beatles-pastiche/tribute. Perhaps the genuine highlights of the album are the two Pet Shop Boys covers, namely “Heart” and “Rent” which in hindsight are not as strange as they may sound (Neil Tennant shares the Brewis brothers North East roots, something which, perhaps not incidentally, is also shared by Bryan Ferry).  By removing the electronica of the originals and replacing it with bare bones instrumentation they reveal them for what they are, namely great songs. Play... is clearly not intended to be a grand artistic statement nor be treated as anything other than throwaway but with this being their second album of 2012 (after the Mercury nominated Plumb) they are clearly not suffering from writer’s block and Play... is simply a bijou treat after the feast of Plumb’s initial serving.