Fields & Dears, Troubadour, 10-4-06
Beyond the pastoral evocations and annoying lack of definite article prefix in their respective names, the pairing of Fields and Dears at the Troubadour Thursday night matched two bands, who, while on the surface create different music, operate in a similar mode of safe, commercial pop/rock performed competently by photogenic players, and, while likable, might prove forgettable over the long haul. The good news is that these are both young bands and there were enough of those flashes of rock magic that just might save them from winding up in that dusty section of rarely played CDs you forgot you owned three years from now.
Fields are a six piece from Oxford playing their debut Los Angeles gig and third ever in the States. Their sound is a skillful blend of twee, shoegazer, folk, but all in the service of pop. This is catchy stuff. It is no surprise they are already signed to Atlantic and have a big time producer set to record their full length. There is a bit of the expected tightness but they warm up nicely in a short set that, I think, runs through all seven of the songs on their e.p. Their Icelandic blonde female singer obviously draws the bulk of the attention on this stage, with 5 lads surrounding her. She’s almost too pretty for this rock n’ roll thing and, while that enhances the possibility Fields will be playing on The OC soon enough, it could be a bit of a distraction in the bigger picture. Add to that one doesn’t sense in her tambourine playing that she lives and breathes the rock n’ roll and one worries she’ll go off and become an actress or model and pull something like Sophie Ellis Bextor (remember theaudience or have you already forgotten in your rarely played CDs?). I hope to see them let a bit more fire into their playing, tone down a bit of the sheen off the recordings and in general, let more life come through, as they do on “Brittlesticks,” the standout of their oeuvre at this point.
Dears are a Montreal six piece with a sound more at the beefier rock end of the pop spectrum, or at least you sense that is what they aspire towards. Their older ballads do not get service equal to the louder newer numbers. The boilerplate on them is that they are similar to Morrissey because their singer sounds similar to the modern master. This comparison is ultimately useless in describing the band, as outside of the singing of a couple of songs maybe, musically they do nothing like The Smiths or solo Moz. (Lyrically, they aren’t even in the same sport, much less the same ballpark.) They seem to be striving for a self consciously big rock epic sound on their new release Gang of Losers and have those fundamentals down, but, much like a Canadian TV show, it can tend to feel like an approximation of what we’re used to here.
Their songs seem to be hinting of better potential songs if they just pushed them a bit harder. I am not convinced the synthesizers at which their two ladies stand are even plugged in, such is the murky sound into which they often lapse. The rock n’ roll Frankenstein in me wants to take the Fields’ hooks and adorn Dears’ rock with them and then give some of Dears’ body to Fields. Since they’ve been at this for a good 10 years, it is time for them to deliver on their potential. It’s not a good sign they’ve already had to downsize venues in L.A., so they might get just one more crack at it, or else they’ll wind up next to Gene in that dusty section of CDs you forgot you owned in three years time.
Pictures By Audree Lau