When we were talking about Coldplay the other day, one of the regulars, Jamesewan, posted some thoughts which suggested that the British music scene “has been in a kind of depression for a while now.” It’s not something I worry about a great deal, to be honest, since I don’t really care where the records I like come from – and they usually come from America, realistically.
But as a matter of interest, I had a look through the blog archives and discovered a surprisingly large number of British artists – 18, I reckon – have been covered on Wild Mercury Sound this year. And to that list, today, we can add one more: The Week That Was.
The Week That Was is a new project from Peter Brewis, who’s also a key player in the Sunderland band, Field Music. Over the last couple of years, the amount of laudatory press directed towards Field Music (and towards another spin-off, School Of Language) has left me intrigued but a little baffled. Self-consciously complex, a sort of chamber pop correlative to their fellow travellers The Futureheads, they seemed to demand deeper investigation, but never quite encouraged it.
The first, self-titled Week That Was album has finally snared me, though. In many ways, it’s not the sort of thing I often go for, since it fetishises a certain prissy sound from the ‘80s, all Fairlights and Linn drums, and references to Peter Gabriel in the press biog. It’s interesting, though, that a lot of the ‘New Pop’ (dreadful disingenuous phrase) that Brewis references is not ABC, the Trevor Horn/ZTT pomp and so on, but the stuff I rather like: Scritti Politti, Prefab Sprout, Japan and especially Kate Bush (although someone here has just mentioned It Bites, which isn’t so good).
On something as marvellous as the opener “Learn To Learn”, Brewis seems to have sneaked into a hole in time, somewhere in maybe 1982, where the mathematical awkwardness of post-punk can be given a lavish studio makeover. It’s wilfully brainy, stiff and yet immensely gripping pop music, that occasionally resolves into a fine, catchy, strings and harpsichord-augmented song like “The Airport Line”.
At other times, the fidgety melodic structures have an air of baroque prog to them (especially “Yesterday’s Paper”), and there are a couple of tracks – specifically “It’s All Gone Quiet” and “Come Home” – that suggest a pop rethink of Tortoise. “It’s All Gone Quiet”, especially, has a kind of systems gamelan thing going on which reminds me very much of a track from “TNT” – “Iguazu Falls”, is it?
And two further comparisons. The Week That Was strike me as taking the polished raw materials of the more adventurous ‘80s pop, then reinventing them, in a way which isn’t utterly unlike two firm favourites round these parts, Wild Beasts and Yeasayer. I need to go back to those Field Music records, I think. . .