Field Music are a band I have loved for many years, almost certainly being introduced to them by best buddy Kris.
They’re certainly not your typical ‘indie’ act, sounding more like a cross between Steely Dan and Sparks, with added funk and post-punk angularity and Everly Brothers/Beatles harmonies, like on this track:
We first went to see them at The Water Rats in King’s Cross in June 2006, by which point I had already acquired their self-titled debut album, and compilation of early singles entitled Write Your Own History, both from Rough Trade in Covent Garden.
We saw them again at the ICA in February 2007, supported by forgotten Kiwi indie popsters The Ruby Suns. This was in the immediate wake of their second proper album Tones Of Town, still my favourite of all their records.
The band then took a break with each of the two brothers releasing albums under other band guises – firstly David’s School Of Language issued Sea From Shore in February 2008, with Peter’s self-titled The Week That Was LP coming out six months later.
March 2010 saw the release of the double Field Music (Measure) that also came with a Rough Trade Bonus Disc of covers and b-sides.
By this time, I was living in Liverpool so I went to see the band for the third time when they headlined a five-strong bill at Mojo later that year, although they started so late I didn’t get to see the whole set before having to leave for my last train.
However, as this was a free show that was part of Liverpool Music Week, I can’t really grumble about missing out!
The Field Music albums continued, with Plumb and the covers LP Field Music Play… both issued in 2012. The latter is a real treat, including songs originally by Syd Barrett and John Cale, Ringo’s Don’t Pass Me By off the ‘white album’, and two Pet Shop Boys tunes.
Before the next Field Music album (2016’s Commontime) came a second School Of Language record, with a third coming out last year.
This latest one, 45, was a concept album all about Donald Trump, the 45th President of the USA. That doesn’t make it sound like much fun, but fear not, it’s a really good, funky album.
Field Music’s sixth studio album Open Here came out in February 2018, with the very latest one being officially released the day after this gig.
Making A New World is a concept album commemorating the hundredth anniversary of when the Treaty of Versailles came into effect following the end of the First World War, yet another idiosyncratic choice of subject matter.
All the records mentioned above are in my collection, meaning that I have the equivalent of fourteen long players by the Brewis brothers, though I have just noticed that I missed out on 2014’s Frozen By Sight by David Brewis with Paul Smith from Maximo Park, so don’t have the full set.
Anyway, back to the evening at hand.
On arrival, I was handed my CD of the new album – my ticket was a very reasonable £12.10, which covered both the gig and the CD.
I had a chat with Peter Guy from Getintothis, who introduced me (as a “dirty red”) to his mate Cai, lead singer and guitarist with New Mexico, whom I wasn’t aware of, but have now investigated briefly. Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to hearing more.
I was also (re?-)introduced to Warren, one of the many fine GiT photographers (again as a “dirty red”), who was there to snap the show.
Funnily enough, Peter didn’t really seem to want to chat football…
The most surreal moment was when Cai, seemingly genuinely, complimented me on my trainers – just well-worn black Adidas Samba OG’s, my pretty-much-everyday footwear.
I got a pint of the Phase One before heading through to the main gig area, where I spotted first David and then Peter Brewis chatting to people just to the front of the stage.
When they got going, David did most of the talking, awkwardly attempting to explain the album concept, and how each song they played off it fitted into that, in a very self-deprecating and often highly amusing style.
The most commonly used word was almost certainly “tangentially”, as it became clear that the songs were more inspired by the events of and after the First World War, more than being proper history lessons. Fortunately!
They went through four tracks off the new record right off the bat, about the Supreme Allied Commander, the building of Becontree housing estate, the beginnings of gender reassignment surgery and the development of radio for aeroplanes. Just the regular song topics, then.
Vocals were shared between the brothers, though David sang three of the first four, from behind the drum kit.
Peter sang the first of a mid-set foursome of oldies, 2010’s Them That Do Nothing, with the brothers swapping instruments for Disappointed from Commontime, one of many songs to feature some really excellent bass work by Kev Dosdale.
It was then a real treat to get a song from School Of Language’s 45 in the shape of A Beautiful Wall, with some great guitar breaks from David.
To continue the musical highlights, the classic The Noisy Days Are Over sung by Peter then featured some cool parping synth work from Liz Corney.
A shout out to the other member of the touring band, guitarist Andrew Lowther, who also dinged some mean cowbells.
They then returned to the new album for another couple of tracks before Checking On A Message from last year’s Open Here.
The main set then closed with two more tunes from Making A New World, firstly one about the development of sanitary pads, followed by one concerning the final payment of German reparations to the Allies in 2010.
The night was then due to conclude with a signing of copies of the new album, but they decided to squeeze in one more song, with Peter back behind the kit for the lovely (I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing, from 2012’s Plumb.
So, a really good set as we got to hear eight songs off the new album, as well as six older numbers.
The night was topped off by getting my CD of Making A New World signed by the Brewis brothers, without much of a wait.
I decided to ask David what his favourite concept album is, as both of his last two records have been concept records.
I was delighted that he gave it as much thought as he did, wondering if we could count any of Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, A True Star, Song Cycle by Van Dyke Parks or Lou Reed’s Berlin. All fine albums, of varying styles.
He eventually decided that maybe none of those were really concept albums, although he also posited that most albums are, as they tend to be composed as a group of songs.
I’m not sure he fully agreed with my slightly light-hearted suggestion that concept albums are “all shit”, and finally settled on Pink Floyd’s The Wall, not an album I’m currently (or all that likely to be) familiar with.
A nice way to round off a great night’s entertainment. Long may Field Music (and offshoots) continue!
I umm-ed and ah-ed and ended up wearing my yellow Leonard Cohen tee, to honour Field Music’s cover of Suzanne. Sadly, I didn’t spot any other band tees amongst the crowd.
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Here is much of the music from the show on Spotify: