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The pair recently joked that the band had become more multicultural – Peter's moved up to Newcastle and their new bassist, Andrew Lowther, has a season ticket at St James' Park. But Field Music's endearingly weird Wearside aesthetic remains in place. Plumb ploughs furrows that the band and its listeners have explored together before. As Loyd Grossman might intone: "The asymmetric pop, the slinky sing-alongs, the noirish noises..." All are present and correct.
If anything the brothers have upped the wonk factor on Plumb: the home-made beats and undersea bubbling on Choosing Sides present a real challenge to your ears. It’s a particularly good example of the fare this lot trade in, its tempo and character shifting like the sands. In comparison, some of the straighter songs can seem a little underwhelming – for example, A Prelude to Pilgrim Street is a decidedly flat glam blowout. But such lacklustre moments are few.
Unusually, Plumb’s final song sounds like it should be its first. First single (I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing is a rousing, pleasing stomp, comprising this album's answer to previous 'hits' such as Effortlessly and In Context. Although there aren't more efforts like this, there is a thread of romantic disappointment which neatly and appealingly runs through the record. On the wonderfully English-sounding Sorry Again, Mate – the song title alone will have Anglophile Americans reaching for Skype to contact someone (anyone) they know across the Pond for some soothing British diction – there are lovely licks of sadness and solitude. "Can I afford another day on my own / Sat in the kitchen with the radio on?" the band asks, forlornly.
This suburban, provincial sweetness – a tasty concoction far removed from the fashion-focussed silliness of London in both geography and intent – is eminently loveable. Not that the Mackem minstrels can't go glitzy. Listen to A New Town. It sounds like a Justin Timberlake track. That alone is a boggling but brilliant statement of intent, wouldn't you say?
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