At least a dozen bands have been compared to XTC during the recent post-punk revival, but UK trio Field Music has a specific XTC fetish, stealing from the band what XTC stole from Steve Reich. Field Music's self-titled debut album delights in reducing pop songs to a few simple elements, then combining and recombining them in elaborate overlays. After a pair of fine-but-elusive Britpop romps at the top, Field Music gets arty in earnest with a stunning three-song suite: the elastic, rippling "Pieces," the halting, baroque "Luck Is A Fine Thing," and the dreamy, asymmetrical "Shorter Shorter." Between the fragments of orchestral splendor, the sprightly Beatles-esque guitar stings, and the washed-out alto harmonies of bandleader brothers David and Peter Brewis, the core of Field Music offers the most righteous deconstruction of pop pleasure since the mid-'90s heyday of Cardinal, Zumpano, and The High Llamas.
The album stays on a roll with the hazy five-minute ballad "It's Not The Only Way To Feel Happy" and the jarringly minimalist "17" (which may be Field Music's most overtly Reich-ian track); then the record's back half alternates slight songs that don't quite come to fruition with buoyantly melodic wonders like "You Can Decide" and "Got To Write A Letter." Even the three bonus tracks on the U.S. edition of Field Music show the band gaining an increasingly Spoon-like ability to convert the simple and familiar into the sublime. Field Music is a joyful piece of pop art, and a case study in how fragments can make mosaics.