When Field Music announced a year ago that they were going on indefinite hiatus, I was sad, but it’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise for fans as all it’s really meant is that the Brewis Brothers can now double their yearly output. Earlier this year we got School of Language, David Brewis’ somewhat mathy, hooked-on-phonics look at the way we communicate. Now comes brother Peter Brewis’ new thing, The Week That Was, a similarly high-concept venture that you don’t have to fully understand to enjoy. Here’s how the band’s label describes it:
The Week That Was, written and recorded in late 2007 at Field Music’s 8 Studio in Sunderland, emerged from an imagined crime thriller dreamt up by Field Music’s Peter Brewis and inspired by Paul Auster‘s labyrinthine storytelling. Peter started writing the songs as if they were moments, instances of perspectives within this story. The story was left to fall away, leaving a puzzle of musical snapshots. The songs are the evidence in this particular mystery and the victims, perpetrators and onlookers raise questions with concerns familiar to us all. How do we deal with the fragments of information we receive through the television, radio, the internet? How do we balance the distrust we feel for mass media with our dependence on it? How does this relationship influence our hopes and actions in our real lives? And finally, what would happen if we decided not to deal with it anymore and switched off the information flow by throwing away our TVs, radios and newspapers? The anger, confusion and sorrow details the week of Peter’s own enforced switch off. This may be about as conceptual as Peter will ever get.
The Week That Was are a much bigger band than Field Music, numbering (on record at least) somewhere around eight, including his brother and his old band’s keyboardist, Andrew Moore, plus a string section and the stray flute. And like School of Language, Peter Brewis’ songwriting style remains highly recognizable, not that far from Field Music at all, and some have said it’s indistinguishable from them. I would disagree — TWTW is a much warmer sounding record than anything his old band made. Peter claims musical inspiration came from the early ’80s when people were obsessed with Fairlight synthesizers and the Linn drum. But as I was listening to the album’s first single, “Scratch the Surface,” the more I listened the more it reminded me of Steely Dan than anything else. (“Night by Night,” specifically.)
The Week That Was’ debut is out August 18 in the UK and hits American shores on September 23. The video for “Scratch the Surface” after the jump: