Field Music: Commontime | Virgin Media
Field Music: Commontime

Field Music: CommontimeRating: ★★★★☆ | by Matthew Horton



Sunderland's finest, and the competition's fierce. Well, there's the Futureheads, and there was Kenickie once upon a time. Sunderland's survivors at the very least, Field Music – brothers David and Peter Brewis – are now six albums into the kind of under-the-radar career that feels unfair. They've persistently created great, smart pop without the material rewards that might've been theirs at some point in history.

And that point was probably the 1970s. Commontime, like Field Music's preceding albums, carries unmistakable hints of Wings, Steely Dan and XTC, pop classicists all, and all with a touch of the cerebral, or the craftsman's hand. It's not derivative, it's a matter of flavour.

Prince was spotted bigging the duo up on Twitter

This time around though, there's also more distinct emphasis on the funk. It's no coincidence that none other than Prince was spotted bigging the duo up on Twitter (briefly, however, before he deleted the props); through the spry, brass-pumped The Noisy Days Are Over, the ballsy Don't You Want To Know What's Wrong? and the generous It's A Good Thing – perhaps the shiniest pop gem on the record – there's an injection of pure funk groove. And that's just naming a few.

But this isn't southern-fried stuff – Field Music remain as British as ever. The attractive pop-soul of Stay Awake buttons itself up with diffident lyrics ("I'm sorry if I'm ever short with you"; "It's a good job that you know me so well"), while the boppy baroque of They Want You To Remember smuggles in a rare pop mention of cul-de-sacs. If they're the new Steely Dan, they're our own Steely Dan.

They probably won't explode into the mainstream with this one, they probably never will, and that's a shame for the Brewis bank accounts at the very least. More broadly, it's a pity for anyone who won't hear this most distinct of bands and this most engaging of albums. Don't be one of them.