Sometime in the gloriously messed up late 80s I remember a friend playing me the ’25 ‘O Clock’ mini-album by ‘The Dukes of Stratosphear’, a blast of fabulous neo-psychedelia, that even in our stoned state, a few tracks in, we collectively began to realise was XTC getting their rocks off under an alter-ego. Their follow-up album, ‘Psonic Psunspot’ was preceded by an article announcing that each track was a direct pastiche of a particular but unrevealed band, which made the experience more laboured, almost like an exam.
Field Music’s newest album brings that uneasy feeling back to me, with its so many nods to myriad influences, that I’m looking around for my clipboard sheet of boxes to tick. The annoying BBC wine critic is coming out in me, as I get hints of Squeeze and an aftertaste of, yes, XTC!
It kicks off with ‘The Noisy Days Are Over’, which instantly brings to mind McCartney’s ‘Coming Up’ with a dose of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ on the side, but then about halfway through slides off into a very nice sax-driven wriggle around the cowbells and over-produced snare fest (fest? It’s too controlled for that.)
‘Disappointed’ follows with its Scritti Politti/Hall & Oates vocal effects and affectations vying for supremacy, and I nervously feel that if I miss any inferred sly-winks to Music’s past tapestry therein, I’m not keeping up. I shouldn’t be complaining, it makes a reviewers job easier when the band’s influences are on their sleeve, but when they’re proffered so closely, like a spilled raspberry ripple, they end up all over mine.
‘How Should I Know If You’ve Changed?’, six tracks in, is short but fun and jerky, and my ‘My Sharona’ neuroses are starting to abate somewhat, and the couple of tracks that follow whiff only faintly of 10CC.
‘The Morning Is Waiting For You’ is quite beautiful and the song Badly Drawn Boy always wanted to write, and ‘Indeed It Is’ is a quirky King Crimson workout. Wafts of CSNY with an 80s spin follow, but the identity of the band themselves (if they indeed need or desire one) seems to be inadvertantly emerging in the closing tracks.
So, an enjoyable but disconcerting album, and one that leaves me wanting to shout will the real Field Music please stand up, please stand up? Would I have enjoyed it more if Will Smith had erased my memory with his magic biro immediately prior to listening to it? Probably.