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Monday, April 30th, 2007

If You Fail, We All Fail

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)
MySpace: Fields

Bjork talks to The Guardian about getting extroverted on Volta, out next Tuesday. NME is streaming the whole album this week – the link is under “media”.

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.

Aversion talks to the brothers White of the Electric Soft Parade, in town June 12 at Lee’s Palace with their alter egos Brakes Brakes Brakes.

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.

By : Frank Yang at 8:32 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Brads says:

    Real glad to see you’re on the Wire train. You’ll blow through ’em all in no time.

    Typically HBO has released the season DVD sets just before a new season is about to air, so when they announce a date for the start of season five (can’t come soon enough), you’ll likely get your answer.

  2. neil says:

    you mean "No Cars Go".

    minor thing. keep up the good work. I come back every day.

  3. kathryn says:

    Don’t watch too much of the Wire at once — it’s probably bad for your subconscious. That said, it does get under your skin, doesn’t it? So highly addictive. One thing to note, though, is that each season is meant to stand on its own and you don’t need to have watched season 1 to get into season 2, etc. This can be disconcerting as season 2 throws you into a very different world from season 1, but with some of the same characters. Also, each season has different a opening credits version of "Way Down in the Hole" which is really interesting.

    More about the music in The Wire:
    http://www.citypaper.com/mu

    And the music supervisor’s weblog (!)
    http://www.tenthousand.org/

  4. Frank says:

    thanks for the catch, Neil – fixed.

    Kathryn – I do like that it’s not heavily serialized, even episode to episode, so I’m able to watch one hour, go make dinner, bathe, what have you, and not get all twitchy about not watching. And if the season-to-season discontinuity means that this story gets wrapped up, even better. I hate stuff that gets dragged out ad nauseum.

  5. Steve says:

    Does anyone have any details about the Fields amp’d mobile show? Will they do a full set (not just a few songs), is there an opener, is 8pm the showtime, etc, etc. Just trying to determine if it is worth a trip into the city that night or best to try to catch them with Blonde Redhead. Thanks in advance.

  6. Sean says:

    …this might be bit polarizing, I know how many people hate this band, but Kings Of Leon’s "California Waiting" on the Youth and Young Manhood LP is an awful newer version of an amazing song from their earlier EP. Sometimes tinkering with an old song isn’t the best idea, I hear where you’re coming from Frank. I mean, look at cinema, why would you mess around with the original Star Wars movies?

    See you at Ted Leo on Wednesday, thanks for the blog, I check it everyday.

  7. Frank says:

    re the Fields show – based on the Postmarks show I saw a couple weeks ago, the band will be on around 8 or shortly thereafter and the band will play a full set or as long as they want. I think it’d be a good substitute if you can’t or don’t want to make the BR show. That’s what I’m doing.

  8. jonathan says:

    hey frank, check out this review of The Postmarks recent show in San Francisco: http://www.bandega.com/band