Britain's Field Music straddles a line that's seemingly more of a vast divide: the space between jittery post-punk and sunny, '60s/'70s pop. It's a credit to the group's skills that the styles sound so complementary on Tones Of Town, as if drenching angular guitars with lush, Queen-esque vocal harmonies is completely natural. Field Music sneaks in minor-key guitar under cover of harmonized vocals, bright complementary instrumentation (piano, strings, etc.), and strong percussion that never lets the music wallow.
There's no wallowing, period, on Tones Of Town, mainly because singer-guitarist David Brewis sounds cheerful even when the lyrics indicate otherwise. "Working To Work," a song about the soul-crushing workaday world, sounds jaunty as Brewis sings, "Working to work / and you pay to play / taken to task to spend another day / going home and diving to drown / and coming up for air." More melancholy slips into "Sit Tight," but its dour lyrics about opening wrists don't sound nearly as goth as they look on paper. Sometimes, Field Music needs to go further down that dark road. The final third of "A House Is Not A Home" has an agitated energy that builds only to end abruptly. That was probably a stylistic decision, but it may also indicate an unwillingness to stretch too far beyond pop's boundaries. If nothing else, Tones Of Town is streamlined—11 songs in roughly half an hour, most hovering around three minutes.
Limitations aside, Tones Of Town sounds genuinely confident, like the band learned to focus more after its 2005 debut, the U.S. version of which was a bloated 15 tracks. Although Field Music still has growing to do, Tones Of Town promises good things to come.