The post-punk inspired UK chamber-pop duo Field Music has always been at their best when crafting concise, stylistically boundless and elegantly arranged melodic treats. But following a three-year hiatus that found brothers David and Peter Brewis focusing on solo projects School of Language and The Week That Was, respectively, they reconvened in 2010 with Measure, a sprawling monster of an album that spanned a hefty 71 minutes, taking their creations well beyond their logical conclusions. Sure, much of it was still quite good, but with a band such as Field Music, a two-minute pop song already holds so many lofty ideas that the idea of loading up an album of 20 sometimes-lengthy tunes is an exhausting prospect, and sometimes frustrating in practice.
The Brewis brothers must have shared a similar sentiment, as their fourth album, Plumb, chops the running time down to a manageable 35 minutes, yet does so without skimping on the melodies or the dazzling progressive tendencies. A far cry from their more punk-leaning debut album in attitude if not melodic wonder, Plumb finds the band’s XTC-isms sidling up against the ambitious prog tendencies of Genesis or Yes, but packed into a much more digestible package. The album twinkles to life in the ethereal introduction of “Start the Day Right” before it ultimately gains an electric charge, its jerky riffs and rhythmic shifts maintaining an unlikely accessibility. They find a more straightforward, funky groove in the excellent “A New Town,” which transitions nicely into the low-key synth throb of “Choosing Sides.” And a simple acoustic guitar strum juxtaposes with popping, snapping percussion in the upbeat “Who’ll Pay the Bills?”
Plumb‘s most impressive moments are saved for the very end, with the comparatively sparse pulse of “Just Like Everyone Else” transitioning into the hard-hitting conclusion in “(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing.” By this point, however, one may very well require another lap around the album’s 15 tracks to take in all of the various left turns and detours that Plumb offers. That it all happens in a little longer than a half-hour shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; economy has always been one of Field Music’s greatest strengths. Ironic, then, that the well of inspiration is seemingly endless.
XTC – Oranges and Lemons
Genesis – Foxtrot
The Week That Was – The Week That Was
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.