There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Back in the mid-oughties, Field Music was a Percy Shelley band stranded in a Jeffrey Archer rock scene. While their U.K. peers let it all hang out, the Sunderland-based Peter and David Brewis played prim and proper pop—splicing post-punk minimalism with a thoroughly English brand of schmaltz. Brain-teaser rhythms and austere arrangements were matched with close-harmony singing and tinkling piano chords. The band’s debut, Field Music, sounded sort of like Wings doing a concept album on the Futurist Manifesto. The world wasn’t ready. So Field Music went on hiatus in ’07 while the Brewis brothers tinkered with solo projects (School of Language and the Week that Was). Three years later they’ve regrouped and completed Measure, a full-fledged 20-song double album awash in unabashed rockism. And like any double album worth its gatefold cover, it’s way too long. At more than 70 minutes, it’s almost impossible to absorb Measure in a single sitting. In interviews, the brothers Brewis have acknowledged that such was their intent—both the seed from which the album sprung and the idea that brought the band out of retirement. In adherence to the double-album tradition, the aesthetic shackles come off. Measure’s length allows Field Music sufficient time to slide off the rails, augmenting its standard sound with Prince-worthy synth-funk (“Let’s Write a Book”), prog-rock (“All You’d Ever Need to Say”), and bluesy riffage (“First Comes the Wish”). There’s even a nine-minute “Revolution No. 9”–style sound collage to close the record. Setting aside its run time, Measure is Field Music’s most listener-friendly statement. There’s more breathing room in the production. Layers of preciously arranged keyboards are ditched in favor of wiry guitar figures. The sequencing also helps—a big hook follows each ballad, a gasp of melody every knotty riff. But most important, Measure has a steady pulse. The three-year hiatus apparently gave Field Music a shot in the arm and then some. It’s a Hammer of the Gods band now.