Field Music: Making a New World (Memphis Industries) - Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 7th, 2020  

Field Music

Making a New World

Memphis Industries

Feb 12, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The recent 100th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice has led to a revival in popular interest in the period. English art-rock group Field Music added its voice to the mix with performances at the Imperial War Museum last year. The songs they wrote formed the basis for Making a New World, their latest album. The project reflects on the lasting effects of World War I on Britain and the world at large. The concept itself is hazy and seemingly insurmountable. Even so, Field Music makes an admirable attempt to grapple with a defining period of the 20th century here.

Where the band delivers is on the musical front. The opening instrumentals set the stage very well. The build of percussive noise on the first track cuts straight to silence, then plaintive piano leads into the first full song, "Coffee or Wine." The album concept is at its most effective here. The song considers the mindset of a shell-shocked soldier returning home as he wonders if there is a place for him there. The bouncing piano line has a sweet, pastoral quality which contrasts well with the subject matter. This piano line also moves smoothly into the angular guitar work on "Best Kept Garden."

Other highlights come in the form of the supremely funky "Only in a Man's World." Here the band does its best David Byrne impression as they take on access to menstrual products. While the track sounds awkward in theory, the execution comes across quite well with a disco beat, chunky basslines, and sincere vocal delivery. The following track, "Money is a Memory" follows into similarly funk-inspired territory but with an eye towards Prince instead of Talking Heads.

The seamless transitional moments do help the pacing of the album as you glide from one vignette to the next. The transition from the propulsive "Do You Read Me?" to "From a Dream, Into My Arms" is particularly beautiful. The song descends into steady percussive beats before building into the ethereal following track. The album also makes effective use of instrumentals between the more fleshed-out tracks. These can vary from the jazzy bass lines of "I Thought You Were Something Else" to the atmospheric electronics on "A Common Language, Pt. 1." The effect is that the album resembles a rambling walk through scenes of 20th century Britain, all backed by artful progressive pop.

Sadly, the topics here are too diverse to produce much of an emotional effect as a whole. The concept itself is unwieldy given that so much of the 20th century was defined by the aftermath of World War I. The fact that the band is touching on everything from the invention of sanitary napkins, to war reparations, to the first gender reassignment surgery, is indicative of all the ground they have to cover. Also, some songsespecially later in the albumare too short and sparse to cover the topics very substantively. Unless you are a World War I buff or knew the conceit entering the album, you would likely be hard-pressed to find the lyrical threads uniting the work. The 40-minute suite feels both too surface-level and somewhat disjointed.

Overall, with Making a New World, Field Music has dreamt up a musically creative suite that will undoubtedly reward multiple listens. The central lyrical concept of the album does fall a bit flat, and the message of the album as a whole comes off muddled. However, the talent shown in these songs is undeniable and Field Music should be commended for aiming so high. Even if the band is slightly off the mark, Making a New World is still a thoughtfully crafted album with an unconventional art-rock style. (www.field-music.co.uk

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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