Music Reviews
Open Here

Field Music Open Here

(Memphis Industries) Rating - 8/10

The Brewis brothers wear their working-class credentials proudly. Perhaps their Field Music project, which hasn’t shown any signs of stopping since they formed in 2004, doesn’t offer a career path that leads to a staggered career path. It just can’t be - they’re a family operation, intent on making a career in music with the help of a revolving cast of musicians. But their entrepreneurial savvy, which includes two much-adored side projects and numerous collaborations, is what has kept them afloat and not sink into mere nostalgia like most of their English art rock counterparts. A rigid work ethic is what fuels their desire to explore their songwriting prowess, and the reward they get out of that discipline is the opportunity to carry on.

That’s not to minimize Field Music’s efforts, as Open Here, their sixth main release, is possibly their most purposeful in both message and scope. And that’s coming from a pair who’ve taken a chance at writing a double album and a cinematic score. The siblings, who are also married and have children, have felt the growing decline of middle-class living standards in their Sunderland home. As such, Open Here serves as a gentle counsel for their children for these trying times, as well as an open invitation for the rest of us, to have a necessary conversation about what got us to this point. From challenging the concept of heteronormative culture with an empowering embrace (No King No Princess) to giving out a sharp critique on immigration policy (Goodbye to the Country), they both do feel the need to raise awareness as responsible citizens.

But it never comes with an ulterior motive; in fact, there’s a lot of joy to be had in the Brewis’s calm and sophisticated protest. On Time in Joy, they choose to come face to face with their inner struggles with a beaming smile; it’s also Field Music at their quirkiest, as it cruises by with a spindly groove and a cleverly-adorned wind section that comes to life with a radiant, almost Frank Zappa-esque whimsy. They also hold themselves accountable instead of simply pointing any blame on Count it Up, one of their most accomplished singles to date, where they go over a list of reasons with the aim to expose our inherent privilege. It could bring out a fair cringe if you were to sing it out loud with them, depending on who you are, but they both leverage the words with a stiff new wave club beat that’s turned inside and out into a decadent, old-fashioned rocker.

Setting aside all the added accouterments, a good part of Open Here does recall the mini, string-led interludes of their earlier records but with a more expansive palette. But whereas they’d normally set the course for what was to come, now they’re turned them into full-bodied songs with choruses. Take Cameraman, for instance, which holds the body of a thick, sparse piano chord atop a bevy of thumping drum beats. Or the florid opulence of the title track, which does strike with a fanciful air due to its grand orchestration. It’s as if they’re taking into the account their past unfulfilled potential, but instead of letting them break free, they opt to retain a focused minimalism akin to their less-is-more baroque approach.

But something they both have learned with added experience, especially after 2016’s groove-laced Commontime, is that they're now more confident than ever at bringing in the funk. On Share a Pillow, the duo ruffle their blazers, letting out a freakish horn section atop a robust, gated drum beat as a slightly offbeat David Brewis channels the smooth raucousness of Robert Palmer. Those big hooks are what they live for now, especially if they’re accompanied by a jazz rock-informed rhythm - the heavy reliance on elaborate time signatures is still there but isn’t as obvious on Checking on a Message, where they express their malaise over all the political nonsense they read in the dailies.

Given how Field Music have long riled against the drudgery of everyday life, it’s something of a change of pace to hear them express more delicate subject matters. It does give their artful inclinations a more lively and modern verve, even if their eighties-recalling production inclinations have always been on point. Their consistency in this regard is particularly noteworthy, especially when many other bands have tried to play catch-up by trying this angle and spectacularly fail. Circumstances change people, of course, and the Brewis brothers are no exception. With Open Here, Field Music sound like they’re not only investing in their stability but in their future as well.