In the lineage of McCartney, Davies, Partridge, and Albarn, Field Music is a purveyor of catchy, cutting commentary on the weird patterns of modern British life. Yet the duo’s worldview and the minute machinations of its music draw equally from the groundbreaking 20th-century German philosophers Kraftwerk, who only reluctantly drew distinctions between warm bodies and the cold machines surrounding them. Indeed, with their very good fourth album Plumb, the Brewis brothers’ project is officially classifiable as “frighteningly consistent,” and their skill at cranking out compelling variations on a recognizable theme leads one to question whether they are powered by blood and brains, or servo motors and algorithms. Like its predecessors, Plumb is polite and smart, arranging its unceasing collection of hooks like books on a shelf.
Like social theorists reimagining “A Day In The Life,” Peter and David Brewis speculate about the predictable, easy-to-overlook rituals of everyday life, and more importantly their effects on our ability to relate to one another. With a simple phrase like “(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing,” they question how consumerism structures our thought patterns. Plumb takes the form of an extended suite, but its sharp changes—signaled by Peter’s agile, jazz-influenced drumming—feel like randomly following jagged metropolitan streets, taking careful note of the surprising new things around every corner.
Indeed, it’s fitting that the album’s best song, “A New Town,” draws its jittery pop drive from the anxiety of adapting basic routines to somewhere foreign. This is the essence of Field Music’s skewed pop vision in reverse: the subtle wonder of seeing for the first time what’s always been there.