Field Music Plays… is a release that couldn’t have come at a better time for the Sunderland trio given their recent Mercury Prize nomination. Some of the eight songs compiled on this stopgap release were b-sides whilst others whilst others were recorded for magazine compilations from the likes of Mojo. The band themselves have acknowledged that this isn’t to be taken seriously but there is still plenty of merit behind it.
Some people might have expected reworkings of tunes from artists they’re often compared to such as XTC. In fact, rather befitting the nature of Field Music’s career, their selection of covers are a lot less predictable and a lot more intriguing. From the crawl of Robert Wyatt’s ‘Born Again Cretin’ to the two Pet Shop Boys tracks, ‘Heart’ and ‘Rent’, the variety of their renditions makes this mini-album a lot more enjoyable than it has any right to be. Speaking of ‘Rent’, it’s the standout by quite some distance. As the synths of the original disappear, the drama of the lyrics are allowed to shine brightly.
Even the songs that don’t have as big a makeover are remarkably engrossing. Arguably, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’, a staple of the covers circuit, doesn’t need much done to it but it’s still pleasant (in the best possible sense) as is their version of Roxy Music’s ‘If There Is Something’. If anything, they sound relatively fresh-faced.
At its best, this shows off the band’s wonderful musicianship through a different prism. Field Music deserve this bit of self-indulgence and Field Music Plays…, rather than coming across as lazy, is a lot of fun and very hard to dislike.
Words: Max Raymond