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Field Music: Making a New World | Review

For their eighth record, the English art-rock band Field Music have made a concept album about the aftermath of World War I, aka the 20th century. Originating at London’s Imperial War Museum, Making a New World begins with a song based on a graphical recording of the last shots fired in the war and goes on to cover everything from women’s suffrage and Tiananmen Square to the invention of the sanitary napkin. “A Change of Heir” is about Dr. Harold Gillies, who pioneered skin grafts for injured soldiers, while “Money Is a Memory” is about a German treasury officer preparing documents for—

You know what, I’m sorry, but I can’t. Who listens to pop music and thinks about stuff like this? How do they do it? True, World War I is a hot topic, with historical relevance to current nationalist successions and Russian shenanigans, not to mention 1917 storming the Oscars. It is interesting that Gillies performed one of the first gender affirmation surgeries, and that Germany paid its last WWI reparations in 2010. But I only know this from reading about the album, which I only did in order to write about it.

Music is the best way to learn about emotions, but the worst way to learn about facts. Without context, which Field Music’s medium can’t provide, you’re left perplexed by the obscure narrative perspectives and wondering why on earth these guys are singing about menstruation. The music, though lively enough, feels distant in its concerns. The album’s fussy construction, with lots of small instrumentals and half-songs, is tiresome. By the end, it’s hard to remember much of what happened.

To be fair, there are some good ideas here. Opener “Sound Ranging,” an interesting blend of beauty and terror, is one of the best instrumentals, with a

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