Music Reviews

Field Music Plumb

(Memphis Industries) Rating - 4/10

Upon first hearing Plumb, I was unsure of what I thought of it, seemingly able to explain why it was so great or why it was so bad with the flip of a switch. For this reason, Plumb is an album that is to be discussed, and so I have let the Devil and God inside of me take shape and do the talking, for my benefit and yours.

Skeptic: Plumb is saturated with ideas, ensuring that nothing you actually like hearing lasts long enough for you to think about. The Brewis brothers give us fragments of at least 30 songs over the course of the 15 tracks. Unfortunately, best parts are always cut short, no real pattern is established, and the album struggles with an identity crisis throughout its 36 minutes.

Believer: Plumb’s use of short, seemingly unfinished fragments make a strange amount of sense on repeated listens, and although you may wish something goes on longer, nothing you hear is bad. The Brewis brothers end an idea when they have gotten everything that they can out of it, unwilling to compromise the quality of the phrase to make it longer. As a result the listener is always enchanted by what they hear and excited by the possibility of what comes next.

Skeptic: Many accuse the indie scene of having lost the creativity that it had just a few years ago, but the fragmented approach to songwriting is too gimmicky and unfulfilling to be a worthy answer, a new approach just for the sake of a new approach. Even the best songs are derivative of progressive rocks original torch-bearers, particularly Yes and Genesis. If the only creativity you have is cutting up pieces of songs without anything in common other than a good individual sound and mashing them together, your creativity is not productive.

Believer: Field Music steps away from the indulgence and excessiveness that many associate with today’s prog-rock and takes the genre back to its roots. The resulting sound, while not new altogether, is certainly not old in today’s scene and instead feels like a breath of fresh air.

Skeptic: The album has an uneven mix of suites, fully finished songs, and unfinished fragments of songs. Plumb feels like a concept album for its first three tracks and then loses that feeling. The best tracks, the prog-heavy A Prelude To Pilgrim Street, the a cappella How Many More Times, and the mostly instrumental Ce Soir, feel unfinished. The mixed approaches isolate songs, and the impression left is that Field Music cannot sustain a level of enchantment, or otherwise that they retread ground covered in Tones of Town or Field Music (Measure).

Believer: The best songs on here may be short, but they sound completely finished. Like any good song or album, they leave you wanting more. From Hide And Seek To Heartache and the closing pair prove that Field Music can make a full-length uni-song, and so do their previous albums. Plumb is going for something else, and as long as it sounds good—and it does—who are we to question it?

These two voices could easily battle on in my mind for another review’s worth of words. But that aside, when you get down to it, this music does sound good, but its structure and cohesiveness (or lack thereof) is inexplicable. It starts with three songs that don’t end, it ends with a song that sounds like it should start, and it lends itself to casual listening more than it does to a quiet listen in a beanbag chair with a nice pair of headphones and no distractions. As good as these songs are on their own, this is marketed as a studio album, not a collection of singles. Plumb feels unsure of how ambitious it wants to be, but instead of landing in the middle of the road, the lack of focus and uncertainty create an incoherent mess. It’s full of good instrumentation, but nothing especially new to Field Music. The existential, boredom-induced lyrics overuse irony and are sometimes come off as superficially desperate. There are flashes of brilliance, but we do not judge albums on untapped potential. The believer in me has an argument that implies that an album should cater to the lowest common denominator: That is, the casual listener with a short attention span who rejects true innovation and intrigue. I have nothing against an album that just tries to sound good, but Plumb is unsure if that’s what it wants to do and loses itself in the process. Enjoy the songs—I myself do, even though they are less impressive than older Field Music songs—but the believer in me will never convince the skeptic in me that Plumb is a worthy album in the most visionary sense of the word.