Sunderland band Field Music, headed by brothers David and Peter Brewis, has made an album about the social impact of the First World War.
It came about through a commission from the Imperial War Museum for its “Making a New World” season.
Stand out track “Best Kept Garden” is about the creation of the Becontree council housing estate in Dagenham, which moved workers from inner city slums and gave them hope and a garden. Some of the songs are puzzling without album notes to aid.
“A Change or Heir” is about the doctor who performed some of the first gender reassignment operations based on techniques developed through operations on injured soldiers.
And “Beyond that of Courtesy” is about the Inter-Allied Women’s Conference held 100 years ago.
Concept albums like this are often best appreciated in live performance with visuals and band intros lifting the experience and audience understanding—something done so well by contemporaries Public Service Broadcasting.
But Field Music has achieved something clever here.
It has presented sometimes complex themes in an album utterly true to its unique sound, musical exactitude and gleaming production without overworking the songs.
And some of the songs stand alone from the over-arching concept and speak to today. “Only In A Man’s World”—about the developments in women’s sanitary products through First World War technology—has the great lyric, “Things would be different if boys bled.”
All round it’s a pretty good job!