Field Music - Making a New World
Jan 10, 2020 (updated 19h ago)
I had never heard of Field Music before a few weeks ago, when I reviewed the Wikipedia article for the band's 2012 release Plumb to see if it was eligible to appear on the main page. After getting some issues sorted, it eventually made its appearance in the DYK section one the day before New Year's Eve 2019. I didn't think too much of it afterwards, although I was slightly intrigued by the article's description of the band's music. Soon after, the article nominator asked me whether I wanted to review another Field Music album's article, Commontime (2016), this time to see if it was good enough to be promoted to "Good Article" status. This time I resolved to listen to this album, since this was a longer and more detailed reviewing process. While listening to Commontime, I was impressed by how fun and novel it was, and its lyrical themes of settling down when you become a father. I soon discovered that the band was releasing a concept album about the aftermath of the First World War. I was extremely interested: I wondered how Field Music would explore this topic within the framework of their music. Would they focus more on the lyrics, or their oddball musical choices in this framework?

The answer to this question turned out to be both: lyrically, there are intriguing stories surrounding the changes soldiers see when they return from war ("Coffee or Wine"), post-War European relations ("Between Nations"), skin grafts ("A Change of Heir"), sexism and the stigma surrounding periods ("Only In a Man's World"), Germany's hefty fine to help pay for the war reparations ("Money Is a Memory"); there are also musical references to the war, such as in the first two tracks, which are supposed to mark the moment the war ended, as the echos of bombs and gunshots live on in echos amidst uncomfortable silence and sad pianos. In fact, one of the prevalent themes of the album our how World War One has helped shape society and parallels in today's world: the surgeries injured soldiers underwent led to the first sex-change surgeries ("A Change of Heir"), a French cellist's work as a radio operator during the war led to the first synthesisers ("Common Language Pt 1") and much more.

However, all of these issues are almost always delivered with wit and simplicity (although the is the occasion moment that comes off a little pretentious), and doesn't come between you and your enjoyment of the music on this album and all of its artsy quirks. There is a nice mix of rock, prog, indie, electronic and disco in here, making use of piano, percussion, synths and guitars in both the well-balanced instrumental tracks and songs. There are plenty of novel and unusual chord progressions and shifting time signatures that keep the listener on their toes, but they don't get in the way of the many catchy riffs and choruses on this album, namely album on highlights "Coffee or Wine", "Only In a Man's World" and "Money Is a Memory".

This album ultimately dazzles in its intelligence, and is also a whole lot of fun, with a heck of a lot of food for thought once its all over. Please listen to this album at least once, I guarantee that you will not be disappointed if you're looking for some enjoyable songs to groove to with some brains. Plus, it only gets better the more you listen to it as more of its brilliance emerges with every spin.
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