(L-R): P. Brewis, D. Brewis, Andrew Moore (who left the band and is now training to be a chef. True fact)

So rather this than talk, grab your keys and get to work / Cos them that do nothing make no mistakes” – Field Music – Them That Do Nothing

I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that Peter Brewis is a bit of a genius.  Make sure to watch him during a Field Music set – the care and precision with which he works his way through odd but wholly methodical, inside-out drum patterns, the adeptness with which he plays every instrument, his seeming immunity to error – the way he conducts and encourages the new band members, guitarist Kevin Dosdale and bassist Ian Black, cajoling them with conspiratorial looks and broad grins.  Also check the solo album he produced during Field Music’s hiatus, as The Week That Was (why did it take me so long to work out how good that record is?

We’re a few months ahead of the release of the new album, which the band have decided to call Field Music, even though their first album was also called Field Music.  Somebody somewhere has added the word Measure in brackets to distinguish the two.

The group play a lot of new material during their 90-minute set and are typically eager to thank their audience for the opportunity.  Let’s call it an advance road-test, at a very reasonable door tariff – £7  is not a lot more than you pay to see a bunch of no-marks at a ‘showcase night’, over at the dear old Night & Day.

At first listen, the new stuff sounds definitely, proudly English, in a way that not many groups do any more, since it became the overwhelming cultural norm to draw almost your entire sphere of influence from the American underground and canon.  Field Music have never sounded remotely American and for that, they should be applauded.

There’s a streak of the seventies running through their sound, very definitely a touch of early Roxy Music, even a little Pink Floyd (a group whose sound and ethos I’ve always rejected). I once met Peter at a Futureheads concert – I still feel guilty for distracting him as he tried to enjoy the headliners – and remember being somewhat stunned when I asked who their main influences were and he just said ‘Queen’.  Full stop.   Queen were, to me, everything that was wrong with music.  Yet here was a group whose intriguing, canny music was giving me so much pleasure and there was the influence, from right out of the Red Zone, as far as I was concerned.  Balls, another preconception to be dismantled.

Back to the Deaf Institute show. For now, it’s hard to unpick the lock of the new material.  It’s dextrously played, never formulaic, riddled with ideas, time signature changes, unexpected twists.  That prog inclination rears its head when Dosdale and David Brewis play twin lead guitar with slightly abashed smiles (‘are we actually allowed to do this?’). The odd dip into the back catalogue rewards the faithful, but there’s no Closer At Hand, no You Can Decide – a particularly vivacious rendition of the latter moons ago at The Roadhouse is still one of my favourite ever live moments.  We do get Shorter, Shorter, If Only The Moon Were Up and an encore of It’s Not The Only Way To Feel Happy, but plenty of gems are missing – which is a great sign in itself.

Now I’ve been fortunate enough to hear the new record, I can tell you it’s a double album, which is something in itself.  Who makes double albums?  Since punk orthodoxy became the default, the idea of a rock album that doesn’t fit onto one side of a C90 has been somewhat verboten.  Double albums were pomp-rock excess and prog long-windedness.  But iTunes and so forth changes the concept of the album, which can now be as long or as short as you like.  If you don’t like a track, just deselect it.  Re-order the tracks, if you want.  Fuck it.  An album’s just a collection of songs.  The group give you a proposed order, but once you have it, it’s yours to deconstruct.

If Queen are OK, everything I have ever believed must be reassessed. Even YES might be acceptable...

Independence, goddamnit!  Field Music have their own studio, they produce music as they like.  They talked seriously about getting proper jobs, so they didn’t have to bother with the PR duties that go with being a ‘professional band’ and could just work at home in the evenings.  They’d do music whether they made money out of it or not.  They don’t think they’re rock stars.  They don’t want to be rock stars.  Peter’s defiant chorus line from the superb new track Them That Do Nothing sums them up very nicely indeed – that attitude is what I love about them.

Field Music are starting to become an English institution and we’re well short of those.  That they went on ‘official hiatus’ after their second LP, Tones of Town, was worrying for the state of the musical nation; that they are back is a great relief.  Their originality, work ethic and commitment is an inspiration.  Hopefully, that lengthy hiatus has had the desired effect and they’ll kick on from here.

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