Since their technicolour debut back in 2005, the Brewis brothers have consistently proved themselves to be worthy heirs to a particularly English incarnation of cheerful, sun-kissed soft rock. Take a little of XTC’s ‘Summer’s Cauldron’, a spot of ELO’s ‘Discovery’, a dash of Pink Floyd’s ‘Meddle’ and strain it all through a sieve of 00s math-indie and, hey presto! That’s Field Music right there, all village green eccentricities and long bright tea-times of the soul. Every Field Music record should be released right on the cusp of May, as the last vestiges of winter roll away and the clouds part for just a couple of weeks.
Now, Field Music have not reinvented the wheel for ‘Flat White Moon’, but it does offer a handful of interesting ideas scattered alongside the more typical Brewis fare. Opener ‘Orion From The Street’, with its cascading pianos and lullabyish lyrics (the main refrain is literally “Gently down the stream”), promises a more dreamlike and other-worldly album than usual, which then fails to materialise as the brothers retreat to the safe territory of ‘Do Me A Favour’.
This is generally the story of ‘Flat White Moon’: every entertaining diversion the band tries their hand at is balanced out by a nondescript jingle-jangler. The arresting robot-rock of ‘Meant To Be’ is sandwiched between the more pedestrian ‘I’m The One Who Wants To Be With You’ and the panpipe-twee ‘Invisible Days’. ‘The Curtained Room’, which would have ended the album on a cool and slinky note, loses the honour to the fine but forgettable ‘You Get Better’. The album highlight ‘Not When You’re In Love’ is a fun and witty ode to lovestruck fuzzy-mindedness, with lines like, “Passing the green, Tennis courts in your jeans,” relayed over an insistent piano pulse that wouldn’t sound out of place on either a John Coltrane or Ryley Walker record; but is then followed up by the comparatively featherweight ‘Out Of The Frame’, a fine, breezy tune that saps out all the energy its predecessor had injected into the album.
When this album hits, it absolutely slaps. ‘No Pressure’ takes the taut, elastic funk of Prince or Janelle Monáe and then infuses it with a gawky, white boy awkwardness that brings to mind the best of Bowie’s plastic soul period, or the nervy strut of a pre-‘Remain In Light’ Talking Heads. The choppy descending guitars of ‘In This City’ remind the listener that the label ‘British indie’ used to be a mark of quality rather than the punchline it became in the wake of 00s landfill.
Throughout it all David and Peter Brewis’ vocals twist and lock around one another, spinning the kind of effortless harmonies only siblings can provide. I would be lying to you if I claimed to ever know which brother is taking the lead on any given song, but this only reinforces their status as one inseparable unit. As that smug but insightful VICE article about landfill indie from last year pointed out, the demise of that scene has seen regional dialects completely pushed out of mainstream British music, and so it’s lovely to hear the boys’ Tyne & Wear twang adding some real texture to tracks like ‘When You Last Heard From Linda’.
Despite their talent with a pop hook and the inviting brightness of their sound, there’s sadly no way that Field Music are going to break into daytime radio rotation, or even the UK album charts, at this point. They remain an idiosyncratic, odd indie-pop proposition, adored by those in the know but ultimately too angular in spite of their mainstream instincts to attract wider appeal. Sure, ‘Flat White Moon’ would be a better album if the Brewis brothers accepted this and leant more on their more avant-garde instincts; but it nevertheless remains an addictive and joyful listen that should absolutely be blared out once picnic and barbecue season begins in earnest.
Words: Josh Gray
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