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Field Music
Measure John Calvert , February 19th, 2010 10:40

The brothers Brewis are natural Situationists, far too clever to take life overly seriously. This is no doubt what made Field Music's first two albums such quirky vignettes for equally smart boys to read Beckett too. This puts them about ten smarty-pants notches higher up the Gartside scale of deconstructionist discourse, than any other Brit post-punk revivalists since 2001.

Take Bloc Party. As incorrigible purveyors of sweeping bombast they lack post-punk's acrid form (save an icy acuteness) and because there's a difference between self-awareness and being enlightened, also the era's tricky content. Then there's the tacky rockists like Kaiser Chiefs and Maximo Park who cursorily affect an absurdist humour under choppy conventionalism. It was Field Music and The Futureheads who best captured that post-Magazine sense of existential paradox, wryly laughing along with life's cruel revelations, a cheery despair intermingling with a North- Eastern humble sensibility.

In Field Music's case it's that seems their stance isn't conducive to making enduring pop music. Admittedly, to some they are witty, poised and chic, but to most it's all so hatefully dry. And off to Franz the curious bystanders go. After reforming sans Andrew Moore, FM's first outing is characteristically multi-faceted. Measure sees their boundless capacity for creative ingenuity circumvented onto a larger pasture (20 tracks large), and their palette widened. Alas though, for all the quality, they're still a long way off from being anyone's favourite band.

Again, as was the case with its predecessors, Measure is palpably haunted by that same anally-retentive meta quality, despite the Brewis' claims that the various forays into Fleetwood Mac or Zeppelin etc have yielded a looser and less cerebral product. The press is that the brothers are genuine fans of their various reference points, but to listen, it's hard to know whether they're conducting some conceptualist play on the music or really getting their hands dirty. No matter how many McCartney-esque melodies, bended blues-notes, string motifs and hand-claps on employed, all is configured through a prism of impersonal new-wave charade. It's not the product of unctuousness on their part, nor is it a precious album, they just can't seem to escape who they are: diffident, old-before-their-time, would-be playwrights. Rest assured, their assorted XTC-isms of yore –the tendency to frustrate energies, the sheer dynamics and the mellow discord – continue to lurk.

If there's a through line on Measure, it's that the brothers have shipped post-punk in favour of early art-pop, modelling a detached recreation of an already pretty seperated aesthetic. On the likes of 'Them That Do Nothing' - a humourless scoff as they admit their own apathy - they're reminiscent of a groove-less Roxy Music, while 'Curves Of The Needle' is like a less pop-art, less lustrous Young Americans-period Bowie. Now, maybe the mid-tempo riches of florid, pre-punk art-rock seem pedestrian to our over-adrenalized minds, but either way, in the ruthlessly simple game of listener gratification Measure is a stultifying old thing - stagy, born of theory, rarely invigorating and all technical élan, no impulse.

If the duo are attempting a sincere, de-intellectualised emotion, it's that of a late-20s loss of purpose. Pervading that faint, silky, Field Music sound and beneath the newly durable textures, lives a theme of gentle dissatisfaction. Measure's best asset, though, is how sumptuously out-of-time the brothers sound, so completely displaced in tone, attitude and manner to the typical millennial male. It's an almost preternatural talent and isolates them as a precious example of contemporary British eccentricity. It's a shame, then, that they're unable to take you there; that grey afternoon, some year in provincial England's suburban experience, or whatever time and place they travel to in their minds to transmit such old-fashioned dreams.