One of the under-discussed merits of living in the post-streaming age is that musicians are limited only by their ambition. It used to be that if your label hated your record you either had to bite your tongue and make it more commercial or try to wrangle out of your contract and sell it somewhere else. But now that those Goliaths are largely gone and anyone can host their music for next to nothing, the sky’s the limit. This is an idea which prog-poppers Field Music have embraced wholeheartedly on their seventh album, Making A New World. This LP is a conceptual piece focusing on the expansive impact of the first world war in a myriad of ways, with topics ranging from gender reassignment surgery to Tiananmen Square. While it is inspiring to see a group put out something so focused and driven, all is not well in this new world. In an attempt to reach for the stars, the duo has stretched themselves somewhat thin.
With such an all-encompassing aim and only forty-odd minutes to work with, the view was going to be somewhat myopic. With nineteen tracks split over a runtime that tight, some pieces are noticeably shorter and less defined than their peers. While these do add to the overall atmosphere and scope of the record, their brevity lends a sense of incompleteness. The distance between touching on a topic and fully exploring it is vast. For too many of the cuts here, there is that unshakeable feeling that we’re getting the Cliff Notes of Cliff Notes of these subjects; a sense which is further exacerbated by the fact that when things are explored in greater depth, they are so much richer. ‘Do You Read Me’ is made so much better by having those minutes to tease out a little more heft from the subject. On the other side, the Peter Gabriel-esque ‘From a Dream, Into My Arms’ leaves you yearning. Additionally, the decision to split certain tracks detracts from both pieces. In the case of the ‘Nikon’ suite, the segue between the two is messy and if the two had been treated a single piece with a tighter link, it would be better. In their current configuration, they feel more like doodles than complete ideas.
Even in spite of this, there is a good deal to like here. In the final trio of tracks, the band uncovers and fully utilises the power of David Byrne. ‘Only In a Man’s World’ and ‘Money Is A Memory’ are top tier nuggets from this collection. They have such vibrancy and vigour that they become impossibly infectious while also successfully exploring their themes, sanitary towels and war reparations. These two fundamentally highlight the problem with Making A New World. When things work, there’s something very magical here. The objectives are electrifying, the perspectives are interesting and well-judged and the tunes are seriously catchy. But for too much of the album, you’re left hoping that they’ll find their feet and give you something to sing about. Ambition should be rewarded and this LP should get a spin for its goals. Whether it deserves more than a cursory listen, remains to be seen. Will Murphy