Field Music – Commontime
Released February 5th, 2016 on Memphis Industries Records
The sixth album from English prog group Field Music brings it all back to the septic days of the early 1980s, when pop music was the domain of a heady mixture of Bowiesque art-rock, Talking Heads-style white boy funk, the dregs of Seventies R&B, and the ghost of the more majestic moments of the Beatles. Commontime is all of these things, but more importantly it’s shot through with the spirit of one of the best and most criminally overlooked groups of that era: XTC. That quirky sense of jerky melody that Andy Partridge brought to his best compositions is present throughout Commontime, to the point where the whole thing seems like a sort of homage to Drums and Wires. That’s perfectly fine with me, since I often feel like Andy Partridge’s crippling stage fright was the worst thing to happen to music in the early Eighties, but it does make the exercise feel somewhat derivative at times. Field Music prior to Commontime were more interested in fragmented songcraft and experimentation with pop-rock forms; Commontime keeps the sense of experimentation but filters it through that XTC viewpoint. The album then becomes a balance – it’s a great amount of fun, but only if you can ignore where that nagging sense of familiarity comes from.