Not even a minute into “The Noisy Days Are Over” I was smiling. These guys are clever, and not just with their hooks and songwriting; there’s a whole world of things living under the surface of bouncing power pop and self-effacing lyrical humor. My favorite production trick: the snare drum mix. Throw some headphones on and pay attention to where you hear it — you see what I mean? I’m not even sure if it’s the same snare drum on the left and right sides. And that’s just one thing. By the time it gets to the Steely Dan meets Sgt. Pepper interlude at the end, I’m exhausted. It’s only been six and a half minutes, but I’m convinced this is the best Field Music album yet.
Moving through Commontime, that feeling never fades. “Disappointed” is easily one of the catchiest songs they’ve ever written, consisting of a funky no-nonsense drum beat over a syncopated bass groove. I especially love the chorus, the way their razor sharp harmonies weave in and out of the “four on the floor” drum beat and fluttering synth chords. “But Not For You” is an interesting song as well; the Brewis brothers — Peter and David Brewis = Field Music — letting their love of the Yamaha CP-30 keyboard and it’s vibey organ tone take center stage. I also detect a little nod to Christopher Komeda’s “Lullaby” theme from Rosemary’s Baby in there, but that might just be my infatuation with horror movie music leaking out a bit.
For an album dominated by upbeat pop music, there’s also some genuinely tender moments. “Stay Awake” is a Hall & Oates inspired track that manages to stay affectionate without becoming corny. There’s also “The Morning is Waiting,” a beautifully written lullaby to Peter Brewis’ son played with lush piano, strings and horns. When the song begins to fade out I find myself sad it’s over, always wanting a few bars more.
The closest the album ever gets to full on rock is “Trouble at the Lights,” a slight return to the band’s sound on previous albums. Channeling their inner (Gabriel era) Genesis, the song moves between quiet and loud, before breaking into an all out jam at the end, carried along by some John Wetton-like thunder bass tone in the vein of King Crimson’s “Fallen Angel.” If I had to pick a favorite song on the album it might be this one, but I usually pick a different one on every subsequent listen.
This album knocks it out on so many levels; writing, production, mixing, performance, everything works together seamlessly. The group really took a gamble with their power-pop vision, and it payed off by giving us some of the best music of their collective careers.
The decision to put the album on 2 discs was smart, as it allows the fidelity to really shine through. It also feels like they took great care with the track listing as each side flows into the other with ease. The album is mixed extremely well, keeping it free from muddy low end or uneven highs. A lot of audiophiles and vinyl enthusiasts like to use Steely Dan’s Aja to test the fidelity of their systems, and I would put this album right up there with it in terms of evenness and clarity. I can absolutely say it’s one of the best sounding modern records I own.
The 2xLP set is housed in a gorgeous, medium weight die-cut jacket. Each 180g record rests in a multicolored sleeve, and when inserted into the jacket it changes the color behind the letters. There’s also an insert with lyrics and liner notes.
This release includes a download code sticker on the back of the record sleeve.
“Dissapointed,” “Trouble At The Lights” & “The Morning Is Waiting.”
“Commontime” is available on vinyl at Memphis Industries.