The Week That Was is the debut solo album by Field Music's Peter Brewis.Written and recorded in late 2007 at Field Music's 8 Studio in Sunderland, The Week That Was emerged from an imagined crime thriller dreamt up by Brewis and inspired by Paul Auster's labyrinthine storytelling. Brewis 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 familiar concerns. How does one deal with the fragments of information received via television, radio, the internet? How does one balance distrust for mass media with dependence on it? How does this relationship influence hopes and actions in real life? And finally, what would happen if one decided not to deal with it anymore and switched off the information flow by throwing away TVs, radios, and newspapers? The resultant anger, confusion, and sorrow details the week of Brewis's own enforced switch-off. This may be about as conceptual as he will ever get.Musically the record is an expansive tribute, paying direct (and indirect) homage to the wildly ambitious Linn Drum and Fairlight experiments of Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, and Tin Drum-era Japan. Fused with typically detailed arrangements and a sense of drama, this makes The Week That Was a brain-shattering, 32-minute epic, straying far outside the conventions of most indie-guitar music.The record features contributions from Brewis's Field Music colleagues, his brother David Brewis and Andrew Moore, along with Pete Gofton on vibraphone, Jennie Redmond on vocals, John Beattie on cornet, and Laura Cullen on flute, as well as percussive and vocal duties from This Ain't Vegas's Jordan Hill and Richard Amundsen. The strings were played by Emma Fisk, Peter Richardson (both veterans of previous Field Music albums), and Pauline Brandon. The success of the album, however, pivots around Brewis's deftness and ingenuity as producer, engineer, writer, instrumentalist, and singer--it's hard to think of even a handful of artists who would attempt to harness such a sprawl of ideas, let alone who could pull off such a project so astutely.
Review by Tim Sendra
The main figure behind the Week That Was is former Field Music member Peter Brewis. With help from a wide range of musicians including David Brewis and Andrew Moore (making the album a mini-Field Music reunion of sorts), the self-titled debut is a lush and lovely slice of modern pop. The group's sound is no great departure from that of Field Music; it's just as arty, angular, and unfailingly melodic throughout. The main difference is that it's more arranged and complex thanks to the variety of players and instruments. Peter Brewis also seems to have more affinity for prog rock when he's in charge -- check the interlocking marimbas on "It's All Gone Quiet" or the majestic horn/piano arrangements on "Yesterday's Paper." It's less the prog rock of Yes than it is the new wave prog of XTC (though "Scratch the Surface" sounds uncannily like post-Gabriel Genesis). The art never gets too over-indulgent and it never gets in the way of the songs. Which would be hard to do anyway because the melodies are so strong and the hooks are so large. Songs like the bouncy "The Airport Line" and the thunderous and jumpy album opener "Learn to Learn" are as good as anything Field Music ever did. They are filled with brains and musical prowess but also lots of emotion and soul, possibly more than Field Music as a group felt comfortable showing in their songs. A prime example can be found in the naked sentiment and sweeping strings of "Come Home." You can probably chalk that up to having one person running the show and can be glad that Brewis has a steady hand on the helm; never letting that pesky emotion thing get out of control. When Field Music packed it in, fans were left with the melancholy feeling that comes with losing a great band before they had a chance to fully blossom. Now with the Week That Was and David Brewis' School of Language project, there are two excellent bands where there used to be just one.
The Week That Was:
The Week That Was
[Memphis Industries; 2008]
So, as it turns out, Sunderland is not the new Seattle, what with leading lights the Futureheads and Newcastle-upon-Tyne neighbors Maximo Park pumping out less exciting variations of their much-celebrated debut albums, and the scene's dark horse-- oddball indie pop trio Field Music-- announcing their hiatus before their second album (2007's Tones of Town) had barely settled onto record-store shelves. But for fraternal Field Music leaders David and Peter Brewis, the end of the band does not mean the death of the brand. Citing a growing disillusion with the touring and promotional aspects of being in a band but a continued enthusiasm for the recording/creative process, the brothers have essentially split into two outfits united under the "Field Music Productions" banner: David was first past the post earlier this year with his boisterous new School of Language project, which closely adhered to its antecedent's post-punky guitar pop schematic, while Peter now emerges with the even more ambitious The Week That Was, whose assured self-titled debut ushers in the Brewis brothers' next phase in earnest.
Perhaps Field Music's most impressive quality was how they pulled off complex, multi-instrumental arrangements in a three-piece format; The Week That Was makes those grandiose intimations real with a formidable nine-piece line-up (including David in a supporting bassist role). Opener "Learn to Learn" begins with a booming repeated bass-drum/floor-tom pattern that acknowledges the lingering influence of XTC (cf., "Making Plans for Nigel"), but also serves as a telling harbinger of Peter's renewed aesthetic, in which traditional new-wave guitars and synths are de-emphasized to exploit the acoustic and percussive qualities of pianos, vibraphones, marimbas, cornets, violins, and, yes, cowbells. It’s an approach that was prefigured by Tones of Town tracks like "A House Is Not a Home", but given a more authoritative treatment here: the tick-tock clatter of "The Good Life" and the hypnotic, Congotronic vibraphone oscillations of the gorgeous "It's All Gone Quiet" prove to be perfect complements to their workaday narratives, while the stuttering, trip-you-up drum beat of "The Airport Line" makes the journey to its swooning chorus that much more rewarding. When the strings come in to soothe the staccato rhythm, the net effect is something like Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers as performed by Can.
Despite the more elaborate presentation, The Week That Was sticks to the Field Music tradition of packing a surfeit of ideas into a compact package, in this case eight songs and 32 minutes; even the inclusion of a seven-minute prog-like suite, "Yesterday's Paper", doesn't curb momentum, those omnipresent drum rolls propelling the song through its multi-sectional turns at a brisk clip. Peter’s songwriting sensibility places him squarely in a post-psych/post-punk tradition that's equal parts Colin Newman and Carl Newman, Robert Wyatt, and Robert Pollard, but the constant tension between The Week That Was' percussive and melodic elements means that, unlike Field Music, his new band can’t be so easily aligned with contemporary indie-rock acts peddling new-wave nostalgia. Never mind the retro-gazing moniker-- The Week That Was is a band you need to hear now.
- Stuart Berman, October 3, 2008