Monday, April 30th, 2007
When I first discovered Fields at show at Revival last October, I was won over by their folk-tinged Brit-rock and proceeded to put their EP, 7 From The Village, on heavy rotation. Even then, however, I’d heard some complaining about how they’d been moving towards a glossier, more radio-friendly sound and what I saw was already some ways into… how do the kids put it? The sell-out.
Having not heard the earlier stuff to compare it to, I couldn’t comment on that but there was certainly no denying the arena-rock potential in their sound – there were some big choruses on the EP and their live show, even when playing to a sparsely filled room, certainly seemed intended for larger rooms or even arenas. So when I heard that their debut full-length would a) be on a major label (Atlantic) and b) be produced by someone with Korn and Marilyn Manson records on his resume, I began to fear that I had gotten onboard with a band about to become a cautionary tale. And when I got an advance of said record – Everything Last Winter, out domestically next Tuesday – it seemed my fears were justified.
I’m generally of the school of thought that re-recording old material to put on a new record is a bad idea. Especially if the impetus for re-recording said song is the fact you now have more studio tracks at your disposal. Sometimes it works (Arcade Fire’s
“Keep The Car Running” “No Cars Go” a recent example), most times it doesn’t (hello Wheat’s “Don’t I Hold You”). For Fields, who opted to lead off Winter with a new version of “Song For The Fields”, the same song that opened 7 From The Village and which they’ve already recorded maybe a half-dozen versions of, it really doesn’t. On the “new and improved” version, everything that’s been added – more noodly electric guitar bits, extended outro, layers of more vocals – is superfluous and not only adds nothing but comes at the expense of the medieval-ish vibe that made the original so interesting. It actually made me sad.
But here’s the thing. Even though that song starts the record off in a hole – and even after a couple months it still bugs me – the rest of the album more than makes up for it. The overall production still has that distinctive major label shellac to it, but past that, their blend of arena rock, shoegaze and folk can be a potent brew and there’s enough really good songs here to reassure that Fields’ potential hasn’t been squelched, just dressed up a bit funny. The singles thus far (“Charming The Flames” and “If You Fail, We All Fail”) confirm that the band has a gift for the anthem and aren’t afraid to flaunt it, managing to make them sound huge while walking the fine line between affecting and melodramatic (and mostly managing to stay on the right side). While those who were already disappointed in the direction they were taking half a year ago will probably find much more to dislike than like on this record, an incredibly strong side B (if anyone still thinks in such terms) can’t help but cement the opinion that this is still an excellent debut album and Fields can and will continue to turn out some great music. But maybe find a different producer. And put “Song For The Fields” to bed, already.
Fields are in town next Friday, May 11, opening for Blonde Redhead and then play a show of their own May 14 at the Amp’d Mobile Studio (free tickets still available). They’re also doing a few North America festivals this Summer (Coachella this past weekend, Lollapalooza in August) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them at V Fest in Toronto come September. Check out some A and V from the band below from both the EP and the full-length – that’s the EP version of “Song For The Fields”, hear the album version at their MySpace – and there’s a bit more to download at this fansite.
MP3: Fields – “If You Fail, We All Fail”
MP3: Fields – “Brittlesticks”
MP3: Fields – “Song For The Fields”
Video: Fields – “If You Fail, We All Fail” (MySpace)
Video: Fields – “Brittlesticks” (MySpace)
Video: Fields – “Song For The Fields” (MySpace)
Video: Fields – “Charming The Flames” (MySpace)
Thanks to Mark for sending me this interview at The Syn Radio with Chris Olley of Six By Seven. It seems the band is no longer split up though they seem more interested in their side projects and there’s still no release date for the long-discussed best of/rarities comp. But hey, they’re answering email.
The Scotsman talks to The Twilight Sad about their adventures in North America. Though I have to say, contrary to what guitarist Andy MacFarlane says, I don’t remember a single encore when they played Toronto last month.
Daytrotter got all Francophone last week, offering up a session and an interview with Malajube and today, they’re offering up same for Grizzly Bear (Session/Interview). And not to be outdone on the other side of the Atlantic, this week’s Take-Away Show features Alan Sparhawk of Low.
Bandega talks to Bubba Kadane of The New Year, who will begin recording their next album in August with an eye towards a mid-2008 release. Touring everywhere except Canada to follow. Via Bradley’s Almanac.
Spent much of the weekend watching season one of The Wire. When is season four out on DVD? I’ve a sick feeling I’m going to be caught up through the first three well before it’s released.