Release Date: Apr 8, 2014
Record label: Memphis Industries
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
After releasing another predictably fine album, Plumb, with Field Music in 2012, the band's David Brewis threw himself into a crazily busy schedule of collaboration, production, scoring silent films, and remixing, while also finding time to tour with Eleanor Friedberger. Somehow he managed to squeeze in another School of Language album too. Old Fears is his second solo album and again he plays almost everything, and again it sounds like Field Music, but a little more focused and personal this time out.
For his second LP as School Of Language, Field Music’s David Brewis elected to draw from experience – specifically the painful, awkward ones of his late teens and early twenties. Nothing particularly surprising there, you might say: who didn’t feel like a knot of anxieties, insecurities and poorly affected pretensions at that age? Caught between the real world and the cocoon of adolescence, you’re not quite what you were, but not yet what you’ll become. We all deal with it in different ways, but Brewis’ mechanisms are more austere than most.
Ever since Field Music’s debut record hit the shelves just shy of ten years ago, Sunderland siblings David and Peter Brewis have consistently marked themselves out as a pair of songwriters able to not only write astonishingly clever compositions but also do so while avoiding the pitfall that individualistic, intelligent writing can often fall into of keeping the audience at arm’s length and permeating a detached air. Not content with having an enviable back catalogue as a working partnership – culminating in 2011 Mercury nominated ‘Plumb’ – the pair have also deployed their many skills to their own solo endeavours; Peter via the sweeping, elegant solitary The Week That Was record, David the more muscular first School Of Language equivalent, built around the 4-part ‘Rockist’ mini-suite. But for second offering ‘Old Fears’ D.
Although it's technically a solo record, it’s difficult to consider the new School of Language record without mentioning Field Music. School of Language is, of course, David Brewis, one half of Field Music, a band that at times can seem like a fabulous slice of old-fashioned ‘indie’ in a harsh modern world – all intelligent lyrics, passionate dedication to their craft and an eye for invention within the confines of the traditional rock-band setup. Where Field Music differ from the traditional indie band path however, is their career approach.
There’s something comforting about the Brewis brothers. That’s not to suggest they’re boring and predictable. Rather, where there’s a Brewis, there’s usually invention expressed in a half baroque, half light-hearted kind of way. You’re pretty sure something curious and unusual will arrive, minus any pretension.
Nine years on from their band’s first album, the Brewis brothers who generally make up Field Music remain hard to entirely pin down. Loosely they’ve evolved into a form of crafted, elegaic Beatlesy baroque-pop but it’s one that thrives on musical about-turns. Proggish suites are derailed by quasi-new wave twists, grandiose strings are upended by arrhythmic, jazz-influenced turns.
On Field Music’s 2012 album Plumb, every guitar strum and every change in time signature was a musical deke that kept co-leaders David and Peter Brewis at a safe distance. The brothers' previous album, Measure, was similarly insular only double the length. Peter expanded on that concept with his solo project, The Week That Was, with nine musicians dotting his songs with sundry accoutrement.
David Brewis has always been a busy man. In addition to being part of the terribly underrated Field Music with his brother Peter, he has also worked with the likes of Eleanor Friedberger, Maximo Park and the Futureheads. Plus, there was a solo album back in 2008 as School Of Language, a moniker he has just dusted off now that Field Music are taking a break.That said, Old Fears is a very different beast from its predecessor, with a more straightforward approach to the songs.
It is now nine years since Field Music's self-titled debut album, which have seen a further three records as well as one solo album each (until now) from David and Peter Brewis. In that time (enough for them to become canonical in discerning circles) those who have followed them from the start can both assess the trajectory of quality for the Wearside brothers, and glean an understanding of exactly which Brewis brings what qualities to the whole. David, the younger, responsible for this excellent latest addition to their catalogue as School Of Language, is slightly funkier, with sharper, leaner edges to his songs.