Thursday, January 04, 2007

That "Difficult" Second Album Made Easy

Field Music - Sit Tight

I’ve never understood the concept of the “difficult” second album. If you’re any good, surely you should get better, and therefore the second album should reflect this and be an improvement on the first? I think the real problem is that many bands find their debut offerings are ridiculously over-hyped, thus applying a massive weight of expectation on them when they come to record the follow-up. This leads record labels and bands to panic and buckle under the pressure. Big name producers are brought in to over-complicate things, the band discover there has always been a ‘techno’ element to their music or they indulge themselves with 10-minute guitar solos and pointless collaborations.

No such problem for Sunderland’s Field Music whose self-titled debut released in August 2005 was warmly received, but distinctly under-hyped, thus allowing them to sneak off and record their wonderful sophomore LP without ridiculous levels of anticipation to divert them from their task. It has also helped that they stuck with themselves as producers and remained on the supportive, free-thinking indie label Memphis Industries. The resulting 11-tracker ‘Tones of Town’ is a marvellous collection of skewed guitar pop music, with a sound that was once described as "like Wire arranged by the Beach Boys", though if I was to sneak into their house at night, I wouldn't be surprised to find records by ELO or 10cc lurking in their collection.

The band’s genius lies in complex yet unfussy arrangements that rarely take the form of the simple verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure. Instead, most of the songs seem to come in four or five different sections, not unlike miniature musicals, meaning that the unexpected is only ever a moment away. First single ‘In Context’ ends with a groovy, meandering bass solo, the brilliant ‘Sit Tight’ features a huff ‘n’ puff human beatbox, not unlike a cat coughing up a hairball, the ghost of George Harrison provides guitar flourishes on ‘A House Is Not a Home’, and the title track features a frenzied guitar thrash. Lovely Mackem harmonies permeate throughout, the production is crisp and the musicianship exemplary, with string arrangements to make George Martin jealous. The LP is unified by a loose, unintentional lyrical theme along the lines of “there’s no place like home, but how come I don’t always feel at home”, which might have something to do with the amount of time they have spent outside of Sunderland during the past couple of years.

‘Tones of Town’ is pretty much everything I could want from an album – a warm and inventive assortment of accomplished, leftfield pop songs that continually surprises and delights. Field Music laugh heartily in the face of the notion of the “difficult” second album and kick off 2007 with a record that I will still be listening to when Big Ben chimes the beginning of 2008. Brilliant.

Video for ‘A House is Not a Home’ –

‘Tones of Town’ is released by Memphis Industries on 22nd January 2007. It is preceded by the release of the single ‘A House is Not a Home’ on the 15th January 2007.

Pre-order the single from Norman Records and the album from Amazon
Field Music website
Field Music at Memphis Industries