Question: Which band in the British pop scene in the 2000s was most characterised by creativity and imagination?

Answer: Of course, Field Music!

If I had to motivate the answer, I would simply invite you to listen to the pop mix of brothers David and Peter Brewis whose ingredients boast new wave angles with a strong XTC flavour with brit pop spikes, electronic and robotic forays, half-breed funk and complex but never convoluted arrangements, which manage to combine chamber music refinements with sudden progressive time changes (but we could not stop there…). All this, often and willingly, contained not so much in the album itself, but in a single song, sometimes similar to mini three-minute compositions, imbued with typical British elegance.

Let’s add then that their already consistent (for quantity and quality) discography offers tastes that can satisfy all palates. Some may prefer the youthful exuberance of the self-titled or the pop refinement of “Tones Of Town”. Lovers of encyclopaedism will be satiated by the abundance of the double “Field Music (Measure)”, while fans of the more prog side will find bread for their teeth in the intricate “Plumb”. Finally, the last two albums “Commontime” and “Open Here” add funky groove and doses of 80s synthetic pop to the cauldron. As if regular discography wasn’t enough, the brothers have found the time to record excellent and abundant soundtracks and albums of covers and parallel careers. Suffice it to mention “Frozen By Sight”, a hidden treasure signed four-handedly by Peter Brewis with Paul Smith of Maximo Park and which is no exaggeration to consider one of the best British pop works of the new millennium.

If we add it all up, we have all the characteristics to certify its status as a cult group (to which I obviously subscribe) praised by critics.

So, everything is alright, then? Not entirely…

When listening to their records, a little uneasiness often peeped out, like a thorn in our side: a vague feeling of incompleteness that made them like the classic student who stands out for his remarkable intelligence, but who is told “you can do more!”.

What made them promises that were not completely kept seemed to be the songwriting: that “substance”, which one cannot certainly define as lacking, but which did not seem up to the (remarkable) impeccable “form”.

In a certain sense, this deficiency in the writing could in fact be considered as an inevitable consequence of the overwhelming creativity of the authors; in fact, the problem did not appear so much the lack of melodic taste or inspiration, but the ability to organize the song in the best way possible, using such a mass of cues and ideas.

I have expressed myself in the past because the new album “Making a New World” has just been released and it seems to represent a turning point: not a real change, because we don’t find substantial news or reversals in front of us, but, in spite of this, a decisive step towards the maturity of Field Music. To try to prove this statement, however, we have to take a step back and talk about the particular genesis of the record.

“Making a New World” was in fact born as a commission work. The Imperial War Museum asked the Brewis brothers to create a show inspired by a very special image: the graphic representation, made by a software, of the last gunshot fired during the First World War. Starting from this historical moment of caesura between the end of fear and the beginning of a new hope, a concept album was born which, if originally developed in a mainly instrumental way, then became – with the insertion of the lyrics – a unique body of 19 tracks, in which, as usual, the two guys manage to put all their passions, from Talking Heads to Steely Dan (in addition, of course, to all those mentioned above). Someone could have turned their nose up at the news that an exuberant band like Field Music would measure themselves against a concept album, a resounding term that immediately evokes the pomposity and exaggeration of the progressive era and would probably have suggested to them a path towards simplification rather than ambition.

Field Music, however, is a different, somewhat unique band. For them, therefore, a simplification would have risked becoming a “normalization” or an attack on their own identity.

The impression is therefore that Brewis have worked in the opposite way: rather than being limited by the stakes that the composition of a concept album imposes, they have used the strong idea at the base of the project as an ideal envelope to give coherence and to “contain” their overwhelming ideas.

The cohesive structure of the suite divided into 19 sections then allowed them to renounce the pop song component, without depriving themselves of either the bold melodies or their typical instrumental and acrobatic cues, while at the same time avoiding the writing limits (understood as the organisation of the elements within the song format) of which we spoke earlier. The real novelty is therefore the mosaic structure of the work which is really appreciated by immersing oneself in the flow and not concentrating on individual episodes.

In fact two moves of similar but opposite dynamics: fragmenting the writing and diluting the virtuosity of the arrangements in 42 minutes instead of three. This allowed them, on one hand, to obtain an effective synthesis of their abilities and, on the other hand, to hide their defects. The result is almost an oxymoron: a suite of 42 minutes decidedly progressive in inspiration, which becomes one of the most enjoyable works of the English band. Linearity achieved through ambition.

For this reason, it seems superfluous and almost a mistake for such a well-balanced work, to scroll through the “pieces” (a term never right as in this case…). Rather, it seems appropriate to quote those fragments that in their brevity stand out within the flow, perhaps precisely because “they” are not required to become songs and to structure themselves as such. In particular, the quieter moments seem to benefit most such as the very sweet Beach Boys styled oasis of “A Change Of Heir” or “Nikon Pt. 1” where a refined melody rests on an almost prog base, built on a Gentle Giant bass and a sublime guitar arpeggio.

Finally, another element should be underlined. For several years now, the Brewis have been entirely involved in the writing, production and production of the albums, playing most of the instruments autarchically. For this new work, they made use of the contribution of the band that accompanied them on the tour of the previous album “Open Here”. The presence, therefore, of a well-established band seems to have allowed the two brothers to concentrate more on the “direction” of such a complex work, which, for example, can be seen in the attention given to the texture between the various fragments, made up of velvety and never forced transitions, which give the work fluidity and homogeneity.

The final result seems to represent if not the record of maturity, the most important and decisive one in the band’s career. Beyond the considerable cultural scope and ambition of the record, the impression is that of having in their hands a work in which the authors have finally reached full awareness of their abilities. An awareness that’s necessary to carry out those (very few) promises that still remain to be fulfilled.

As long as they do not become a “normal” band…