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Field Music - Plumb (Memphis Industries)

15 February 2012

The brotherly duo of Peter and David Brewis have spent a good portion of the last decade making excellent pop music as Field Music. They split up a few years ago, but returned last year with an excellent double album, one that found the band escaping the very obvious comparisons to XTC for a sound that was intricate and varied, while never sounding like another band.

A year later, the band returns with Plumb, and the XTC tendencies are back…but not in the way that you’d expect. As that band matured into a more baroque sound, so too have Field Music. It’s not an unnatural progression, either; Field Music had a definite mellow side. This side is further explored and expanded upon, as “Start the Day Right” starts the album off, and if you don’t pay attention, it segues perfectly into a little snippet entitled “It’s Okay to Change,” which injects the listener with a sunny, psychedelic sound not unlike Dukes of Stratosphear! (Forgive me, dear reader; there’s more to the band than the XTC comparison. It’s hard not to recognize that the Brewis brothers sound exactly like Andy Partridge.)

Looking at the titles of the songs, one would be lead to think that there’s a sadness at play here, but if there is, it’s hidden by arrangements that are sunny and lush, that draw your attention elsewhere. It’s easy to get lost here; whether it’s the joyous clapping percussion of “Who’ll Pay the Bills,” the somewhat downcast yet thoroughly addictive piano and orchestra interplay of “Sorry Again, Mate,” or the true-to-form caffeinated rock of “Is This The Picture?” That’s how Plumb plays out—one moment mellow and a little weird, another moment loud and funky and true to form.

It’s not easy for a band to pull off “experimental” and “accessible,” but that’s exactly what Field Music’s accomplished with Plumb. They’ve done that, and the results reward the listener with intelligent, interesting music that blossoms in the mind on successive listens. Their comeback last year was an excellent, surprising return to form, and they’ve easily bested that high point with aplomb. Simply a fine record, this.