Tones of Town
ield Music are wide-eyed, cryogenically preserved '60s revivalists, but some parts were lost in the freeze. The result is a syncopation that verges on convulsion and listener frustration that teeters near enjoyment. But somewhere under the color-block inlay of this Sunderland trio's debut was a myriad of notable moments, if not tracks, and Tones of Town is no different. Edgy, ornery rhythm completely harnesses this LP, and from this rough and tumble can alternately be derived lint, loose change, maybe the odd gem.
We start in the cafeteria illustrated on the album cover—voices, clattering cutlery, trays and plates scraped down—and settle into a corseted jam that makes no room for real dancing or relaxing, despite the fluid inclusion of fun synths, piano, and that damn syncopation, already. But it’s not only the syncopation that destroys flexibility as much as the ascending lines of the piano and quirky glockenspiel hops, which feel like stiff approximations of dreamy old pop. The song does actually lie down and chill at its closeout, bringing in a lulling string pattern that overtakes the percussion.
Some of this percussive stuff is successful, even if it is never clear what one’s physical or emotive reaction should be besides half-there transfixion. Second track “Sit Tight” is pleasant enough, with an ultra-accessible guitar phrase that is still 99 percent Beatles but is helped considerably by a pulsating human beat-box that enters, with the glock again, after two minutes. The band has never created epics, nor have individual tracks often sat on their visions for very long; there are marked transitions at the middle of every song, and it’s those transitions that, standing alone, have made the group’s releases notable, if not lovable. The drab title track appears like it’s going to stand its ground, which is what I may have been requesting, but that sudden halftime once again engages the ear, begging the listener to set the “start time” of nearly every track on iTunes to 2:00ish. The anticipation of the latter moments may be enhanced by the dull introductions, but only by stark and attention-sapping contrast.
Field Music are fans of tumbling dogpile choruses where adamant string pulls and explosive, muffled drums collide in fits and starts, and “In Context” is a fine example of where this works, not because of melodic assonance or its danceable feel, but because of the rest of the song’s precision and structure. An arc exists where other tracks merely plummet, spike, and expire in under three minutes.
The homely production of this album doesn’t differ from the past two releases, nor does the band depart from the handful of made-over influence snapshots they continually refer to. While not entirely mainstream, Tones of Town is also not all that interesting. “Place Yourself,” because it pares down the format to include only piano, backgrounded drums, an eerie yet elegant synth, and lilting vocal melody, is a success. But more outside-the-box relaxation of vision is required for this band to truly stand apart in their time.