The Brewis brothers of Sunderland are remarkable musical siblings, as siblings often can be. They’re kind of similar to the White brothers (Alex and Tom, ex-Electric Soft Parade) of Brighton; both sing, play guitar and drum and, no doubt, play any other instrument that is available to them. They also swap around – tonight they regularly swap singing, guitar and drum duties – and both write songs. To have been brought up alongside a younger or older brother/sister and to make music from a young age is a blessing for most. Yes, they may have always struggled to make ends meet (and there’s now young mouths to feed), but they soldier on. It’s what they do.
Tonight, for the first show of a UK tour, Peter and David Brewis demonstrate that life long chemistry, with a quick fire run through of much of their new album, Open Here, along with a few choice cuts from their back catalogue. Open Here is another art-pop masterpiece, that contains plenty of UK and US new wave and post-punk influences, but also Prince and Steely Dan. It’s a tightly played set, the eight people on stage making for an equally tight fit on the almost comically small Komedia stage, with the very tall bassist’s head almost brushing the very low ceiling.
Just like the album, they kick off with the elastic funk of ‘Time in Joy’, setting the scene for a generally upbeat evening, that also includes the Talking Heads’ ‘Once In Lifetime’-influenced ‘Count It Up’. There was also a pair of rare politicised songs in the form of ‘Goodbye to the Country’ (where David Brewis informs us it’s, “About the dehumanisation of refugees by the tabloids”), and ‘Waiting On A Message’, where barely concealed annoyance is aimed at the recent referendum – “I’ve never been so happy, I’ve never been so bored” – is counteracted by the continually playful and intricate nature of their music. It’s also a pleasure to witness brother David, and his barely acknowledged voice; a very soulful, if tightly controlled, ‘instrument’ that imparts a deeper emotional impact, much in the vein of, say, a Donald Fagen.
Deciding to eschew the string laden songs of Open Here, Field Music deliver a couple of highlights in the form of the stomping glitzy rock of ‘Share A Pillow’, and ‘No King No Princess’, both songs inspired by Peter’s young children, the latter for his one and a half year old, and how gender stereotypes are still heavily handed to the very young (i.e. she doesn’t necessarily aspire to be a princess) “It’s a crock of shit to me,” exclaims Peter, before dampening the seriousness with amusing observations, “She likes all colours. She likes cheese!”
What Field Music don’t do, and which I believe they should allow themselves to do, is indulge a little. Free up their inner funk and just let the grooves live on a little longer, on the live stage. There’s plenty of funk within their sound, a danceable, head nodding, toe tapping kind of funk that would easily lend itself to a little workout here and there. They are both great guitarists, able to deliver tasty licks and engaging rhythms at will. With two keys, plus flute, sax and extra percussion in the live mix, there’s no shortage of players capable of taking you on a ride of sorts. Yet, they don’t. Disciplined to a fault, their studio made songs are almost invariably super tight, with no fat to speak of.
Still, Field Music have faithfully recreated the full sound of their very fine records. With everybody on song (some sheet music to aid one or two) and yet looking like they are having a ball, this was a short but sweet evening of sophisticated and joyful pop from our friends up north.