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The Week That Was
The Week That Was Alex Denney , August 15th, 2008 11:42

The Week That Was - The Week That Was

One of the more quietly disappointing moments of this year arrived in the shape of The Futureheads’ This Is Not The World. Self-released after their sophomore effort bombed and got them dropped from 679 a couple of years back, a record that should have struck a defiant note wound up a knuckle-headed capitulation of nerve. Their comeback overcompensated for the strained ambition of its predecessor with a procession of brickbat anthems that turned its nose up at complexity and offered up its arse for radio airplay that never really materialised.

The point of which being that tough times have fallen on the post-punk revivalists of way back when; expectations have dwindles and the artistic middle ground couldn’t be harder to successfully occupy if you were a polar bear with a hairdryer perched on an ice cube.

Pulling off this improbable balancing act with glacial poise have been Field Music, a fellow Geordie outfit numbering ex-‘Head Peter Brewis in their ranks. After second album Tones Of Town took great strides away from the post-punk tag by applying their choppy approach to the classic pop of Steely Dan and The Beatles, the band was dissolved altogether to make way for a series of solo projects of which The Week That Was is the second to bear fruit.

We’ve already had the playful tumble of David Brewis’ acclaimed School Of Language long-playing excursion, and now elder sibling Peter reaps similarly rich rewards with a curious amalgam of 1980s AOR reference points resulting in a knotty, occasionally riveting listen.

Brewis has already discussed the album’s nod to the experimental Fairlight recordings of Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel, and to that end ‘The Airport Line’s soft staccato drum track recalls Bush’s own Fairlight-assisted classic ‘Running Up That Hill’, but into that mix of influences we can probably add sundry 1980s miscellanea along the lines of early Tears For Fears, Japan and the Steve Miller Band’s Abracadabra (honest, check out ‘The Good Life’).

From ‘Yesterday’s Paper’s tersely realistic tone to the opening track’s nervy clatter, the music of The Week That Was rarely flows; it judders, crashes, portends – like incidental music for the soul. The former offers clues to the record’s crime-thriller concept which reportedly owes much to the meta-genre prose writings of Paul Auster. In the song’s apparent concern with what’s left unsaid in the news and degrees of fact and fiction (“the following pictures are cropped to the fit / so the shock disappears as soon as it hits”) Brewis seems to be identifying with Auster’s own fascination, itself derived from the psychoanalytical theories of French philosopher Jacques Lacan, with language’s mediating role in the way we experience the world.

A tricky theme, then, and much of the record remains lyrically circumspect, but relax the ear a little and you’ll find form is as revealing as content, Brewis’ seemingly humdrum choice of vocabulary backed up by a shakycam aural sensibility that’s almost intrusively heavy on percussion; a tension-and-no-release aesthetic that sounds like news bulletins filmed in the manner of a hungover camera crew for NYPD Blue.

Similarly the strings are erudite but never cathartic, purely relaying the ‘facts’ of the unfolding drama, as it were, while Brewis makes use of strange inflections and slippery syntax to give voice to his lyrics like they were exposition in a film. It’s presumably a deliberate effect, but it’s also occasionally clumsy and not always edifying in purely aesthetic terms.

Where he succeeds, as with centrepiece ‘The Airport Line’ or ‘Come Home’s elegiac coda, Brewis makes some very ambitious music sound effortless, and where he doesn’t, it only serves to highlight the victories to be had elsewhere. Its most unabashedly anthemic moment, the paranoid funk of ‘Scratch The Surface’, is left to turn out the lights in fine style, confirming Brewis as a talented songwriter unafraid to take some healthy risks.