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Field Music

Measure


[Memphis Industries; 2010]



By ; February 8, 2010 


Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Here’s my conundrum: Field Music’s new record, Measure is an intelligent, ambitious, and seemingly well-executed attempt to reinvigorate what is an increasingly dying and anachronistic medium – the double album – with unimpeachable earnestness and conceptual flair. The songs are immaculately designed, the instrumentation is (at least for indie rock) virtuosic, and the production is pristine. Lyrically, the record is thoughtful but direct, implementing a commendable mix of simple declarations of emotion with clear but nonetheless evocative metaphors (usually relating to music itself – the record’s quite conceptual, remember). In many ways, Measure is tailor-made for the rock critic. But you know what? I’ve listened to the thing, in its entirety, at least a dozen times now and I. Don’t. Give. A. Fuck.

That’s not to say the whole record fills me with this antipathy. The first 10 (of 20) tracks are pretty good. For the most part they’re melodic – most notably “Them That Do Nothing,” which sounds a bit like the Kinks – and you don’t have to be focusing primarily on the band’s intellectualism in order to enjoy them. “Each Time Is a New Time” is agreeably rockist, opening with an almost CCR-like guitar riff that would really be better described as a series of “licks” (shudder, I know…) and “Let’s Write a Book,” with its skronky, herky-jerky rhythms would not sound totally out of place on Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca. So that’s the good stuff. It’s about 35 minutes worth of music. The record is 1 hour and 10 minutes long.

After the halfway point, Measure devolves into a bunch of conceptualized non-song bullshit that I don’t even have the patience to discern, detail or describe. Vast swathes of the album from this point on are dominated by a lack of anything audible whatsoever, punctuated by brief moments of crashing cymbals, hushed repetition of phrases where singing should be, and, really, just a general lack of anything you could reasonably describe as rock or pop music. The song “See You Later” largely consists of the sounds of passing vehicles and footsteps on pavement. At some point I think something is slowly sung while strings ascend and a piano goes plink-plink-plink – but again, I don’t care.

Now, if you’re reading this and thinking, “This is a bad review; he just doesn’t like art-rock,” then fair enough. When art-rock means Talking Heads or XTC, I like it; when it means Grizzly Bear or Genesis, I don’t, and the second half of this record is much more GeneBear than XTHeads. If you like rock ‘n’ roll but just wish it were more like school, then this is the record for you. Personally, I just wish Field Music had made a regular ol’ single album that focused on similarly old-fashioned things like songs.


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