But in the known universe, they are holed up in a slightly shabby room in their native Sunderland, eking out a living from regular Field Music
album releases, side projects and production credits. Such are the iniquities of rock and roll, but to a certain extent they bring it upon themselves.
One reason for this is the way the boys construct their songs. What seems to happen is that they come up with a sure-fire smash, before surgically removing any catchy hooks and the standard four on the floor rhythm parts, replacing them instead with weird staccato drum patterns. Then they pick up a few lines of prose from somewhere (often this sounds like a letter to a mate/lover/spouse) and forcibly contort it into a melody line; rarely do the lyrics show signs of a rhyme.
The result then is that what in the first instance has the listener reaching for their benchmark pop comparisons (Steely Dan, 10cc, XTC, Todd Rundgren, etc.), starts to sound like someone is deliberately trying to sabotage a great song. The drums are the main thing; most songs here sound like the drum part was written first and whatever recording gear David and Peter use must have a knob marked “syncopation” which they can’t resist turning up to 11. Not until you get to the very last track “Stay Awake”, can one detect a straightforward input from the rhythm section (but even then, only in part of the song) and, praise be!, even something which sounds like a chorus.
To be fair, the opening track “The noisy days are over” does have a bit you can sing along with. It’s definitely the best track on the album; not only is it catchy (by Field Music standards) but it has some great Dan-esque brass towards the end. Although the lyric is in keeping with their default prose style, it’s at least intelligible and an amusing take on growing up as the chaps reminisce about their younger “noisy” days (“Don’t forget your name…or where you live”).
So does this make it sound like it’s a bad album? Well only because of frustration at how close Field Music come to true greatness, only to see it all dashed on the rocks of over-cleverness. Let’s be clear – this is a fine record and if it doesn’t match up to the high standards alluded to above, that’s because Field Music really only sound like Field Music; those wistful trademark harmonies, the signature guitar sound, the many little instrumental flourishes which pop up all over the place and yes, those drums in full-fat syncopation mode.
If they could just put those hooks back in and scribble a few lines of rhyming lyrics then that parallel universe might be within reach. But then they wouldn’t really sound like Field Music and our own universe would be a much poorer place for that.