Sunderland-bred brothers Peter and David Brewis have somehow managed to become acclaimed cult artists while ploughing some very overlooked furrows; most likely because their mix of nervy prog, spindly post-punk and jazz-inflected funk is usually paired with the most robust, infectious melodies.
On their fifth album, and their first for four years, their influences are given room to breathe across a full, schizophrenic hour. At times, the rich contents are too much to take in – lead single and album opener The Noisy Days Are Over unravels over six and a half minutes, its taut funk bizarrely giving way to an eccentric, orchestrated ending straight off Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle. Similarly, I’m Glad mixes a 6/4 time signature with jerky guitars, analogue synths and an acoustic interlude – it hangs together in the air in a way it wouldn’t on paper.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when Prince revealed himself to be a fan of the group recently, as Commontime is Field Music’s funkiest full-length yet: Don’t You Want To Know, It’s A Good Thing and Stay Awake are the slickest tracks here, combining Genesis’ dynamics with the wit of Steely Dan and Sly And The Family Stone’s syncopation. Yet, for the most part, this is awkward, nervous music, taking the exultation and liberation of funk and, like Bowie’s Station To Station, passing it through a more anxious, English filter to result in something much more interesting.
At times reminiscent of the ’80s feel of Peter Brewis’ The Week That Was side-project, Commontime’s production is uniformly excellent too, with the Brewis’ wiry guitars supplemented by blasts of brass, strings, pianos and synths. At times, it all verges on sensory overload, but on the whole Field Music’s fifth is their most crafted and impressive yet, another milestone on their unique journey. A good thing, indeed.