Album Review: Field Music – Plumb

[Memphis Industries; 2012]

A long, long time ago we used to have to study “music heritage” in school during music class. It was tedious and basically talked about how cultures had their own rich musical heritage that was wholly unique to them. Then we got to England/Britain and the teacher would always lament the fact there seemed to be nothing that characterised these islands (he mentioned something about the fact England had been invaded so many times in its history it couldn’t have an identity). It’s a very narrow-minded view because although there isn’t much of a traditional music culture, Britain is the homeland of what I would call ‘pop’. It’s hard to describe, but listen to bands like The Beatles, E.L.O, The Who, Blur, Genesis, Elbow and even Arctic Monkeys and there’s something inherently British and unique in them. Criminally, Field Music have always been on the periphery of that bubble, but they shouldn’t anymore with the release of Plumb.

On Plumb, Field Music don’t just take little bits of inspiration from other British bands; they fit right in to the rest of that group with their own brand of intelligent pop that ranges from angular to grandiose, sweeping to ditty, with a great amount of delicate added to the measure. Stylistically, it’s very much the same, there aren’t any wacky forays into dubstep or psychedelia to write home about and that’s one of Plumb’s highlights; Field Music stick to the same style throughout, but present different songs from different areas of that style. That way, Plumb sounds cohesive and interesting.

Personally, I’m surprised by how together the album sounds given how fragmented Plumb actually is. There may be 15 songs listed on the back of your CD, but these aren’t 5-minute excursions. Most are no longer than two minutes, but they still sound like fully-fledged songs. Field Music only actually need to give you two minutes in the world of a particular song for you to get the gist of what they’re trying to say there before lifting you out of it and presenting another part of their lives. It’s really quite wonderful. On “It’s OK to Change,” the band only need uplifting music and simple words to tell you it is, in fact, OK to change your mind, and all of that is conveyed in 58 seconds. “Sorry Again, Mate” is a regretful piece full of trivial imagery, but it doesn’t linger for much more than two minutes, and you get the impression the band keeps things concise because there isn’t much point fretting over a missed train or listening to the radio when you can do something better.

To further that point, it’s fun to guess on Plumb whether the lyrical content is entirely fictional, or if this is an insight into the thinking of the Brewis Brothers. Some of it is so close and personal, and it deals with simple, real-life matters that it comes across as a record they’ve poured their heart and soul into, and have thus given their listeners an insight into their feelings. That quality makes for a very honest and engaging album, and one a listener can fully invest in emotionally. I guess an easier way of putting that is it’s very introspective.

Quite simply, Plumb is how pop music should sound. On a base level it’s an enjoyable album with the kind of songs that would fit on a radio station. Delve a little deeper though, and you’re rewarded with an album full of personal and engaging stories that make everyday life and everyday choices sound more than just every day, they sound exciting and wonderful.