The songs of Field Music have always been trim, tidy affairs, so much so that it was a surprise when they loosened up and went big on 2010′s two-disc Measure. The U.K. band’s short attention span has returned on Plumb, a 15-track collection that races by in just over a half-hour. With no room to stretch out, the band instead raises its sound upward, embracing dramatic guitar flourishes and rhythmic peaks that nod toward the Who or the late-period Beatles. But Field Music’s take on pop remains a cerebral, staccato one, filtered as much through the stop-start dexterity of Fugazi as McCartney’s single-pour melodies.
The tight track times force heightened tempos on even the album’s softer moments: The string arrangements on the fluttering “From Hide and Seek to Heartache” are pushed into BPM territory seldom given to such lush orchestration. “Ce Soir” is another trip into chamber-pop refinement, a direction that contrasts with the bubbly synthesizers of “Choosing Sides” and the bluesy guitar break of “Who’ll Pay the Bills?” Album closer “(I Keep Thinking About) a New Thing” wraps things up with maximum catharsis: “I’m wasting time, what can I do?” the Brewis brothers sing as the bass bulges and electric guitars pulse like Lance Armstrong’s heartbeat. The frantic pace of Plumb feels like the answer to that question.