Helmed by Sunderland born multi-instrumentalist brothers David and Peter Brewis, Field Music have been active since the mid-2000’s releasing music together but separately as School of Language (David), The Week That Was and You Tell Me (both Peter). Despite their fourth album Plumb being nominated for a Mercury Prize back in 2012, they’ve never quite reached a wide audience.
Given the strength of their back catalog, there’s a good argument to be made that they’ve been one of the most underrated bands in the country over the past decade and a half. Their superbly crafted, hook-filled blend of various forms of 70’s and 80’s rock is quite distinctive, borrowing from the likes of Talking Heads, Steely Dan, XTC, Todd Rundgren, Roxy Music, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Prefab Sprout, among many others.
Performing at Liverpool’s Phase One on the eve of the release of their seventh LP (excluding film scores and covers albums), Making A New World is an ambitious release. A 19-track concept album about the impact the First World War had on wider society, it grew out of a project they undertook for the Imperial War Museum. Ambitious projects are not something the Brewis brothers are averse to though, with 2010’s 20-track double album Measure a prime example.
There were a few awkwardly funny efforts to explain the concept behind Making A New World, including jokes about having to do research for the album via Wikipedia. After a bit of rambling they directed the audience towards the liner notes before kicking off their hour long ‘in-store’ set with some tracks from the new record. Joined on stage by three members of their touring band, the Brewis brothers admitted to being a little rusty on stage but it definitely didn’t show.
It was only right that they started off with a few tracks from Making A New World. The piano-led ‘A Change Of Heir’, inspired by pioneering skin graft work which has led to advances including gender reassignment surgery, is strongly reminiscent of The Wall-era Pink Floyd. While the third single from the album ‘Do You Read Me?’, which is about the first time a pilot used radio communication in 1917, is a more propulsive piece of pop featuring additional backing vocals from keyboardist Liz Corney.
After introducing us to some of their newest material, Peter turned to David on drums and asked: “Shall we do a old one?” Receiving a pretty big cheer, they played a few classics such as ‘Those That Do Nothing’ from their career best Measure, along with an incredibly catchy pairing from 2016’s Commontime in the form of ‘Disappointed’ and ‘The Noisy Days Are Over’ reminding everyone just what an excellent band they are.
After a run of older tracks, David then announced (realising how absurd it sounded) that they were “gonna do a song about the development of sanitary towels.” Blending peak Talking Heads with disco, ‘Only In A Man’s World’ comments on how menstruation has generally been looked down upon with David repeating the line: “Why should a woman feel ashamed?”
It may take a few listens to get into the conceptual elements of Making A New World but there are a few instant Field Music classics to be found on the album until it clicks. Containing a strong hint of 10CC, ‘Money Is A Memory’ is definitely one of them with its slightly comical look at the admin side of the war reparations Germany were forced to pay under the Treaty of Versailles (something historians have put forward as one of the causes of the Second World War).
In a strange coincidence, David pointed out that Making A New World would actually come out on the 100th anniversary of the of the Versailles Treaty. But before leaving the stage to sign some copies of the album, they had time for just one more track, opting to go with ‘A New Thing’ from 2012’s Plumb. A fine choice with its echoes of Television and 1980’s King Crimson, among others.
Making A New World is available now via Memphis Industries