THE WEEK THAT WAS - The Week That Was



There's no doubt the so called 1980s revival continues to gather pace, especially after you've listened to the eponymous debut album from The Week That Was, but don't be misled into thinking this is some shallow exercise in nostalgia. This fascinating and highly playable album has a very post-modern background and if anything needs reviving from the early 1980s it's the art-pop manifesto of bands and artists like Associates, Brian Eno and David Byrne, XTC, Thomas Dolby and Devo. And chuck in a bit of Kate Bush for good measure.

...a fragmentary, indistinct nature to the lyrics which seem to be concerned with how information is built up out of the bits and pieces that come our way through television, the internet and print
It's allegedly inspired by the storytelling of Paul Auster, a writer concerned with metafiction, language, space, subjectivity and a sense of doom or failure. The Week That Was has emerged from the hiatus imposed on Sunderland based band Field Music with Field Music's Peter Brewis song writing here influenced by Auster with a fragmentary, indistinct nature to the lyrics which seem to be concerned with how information is built up out of the bits and pieces that come our way through television, the internet and print. Brewis also took this notion and looked at what might happen if we didn't have these stimuli and promptly avoided watching any television for a period of time. It's the absence of these things that also threads throughout the songs.

Then we have the music. If you loved the way Kate Bush, Thomas Dolby, Japan and Peter Gabriel all managed to show off so brilliantly using the Fairlight CMI and Linn Drum on records as diverse as Dolby's brilliant The Golden Age Of Wireless to Bush's The Dreaming then you will lap up The Week That Was. It's dominated by crashing and thumping drum patterns and right from the opening Learn To Learn with its opening salvo so reminiscent of the drum track from Bush's Sat In Your Lap its manifesto is defiantly presented. Mix that in with a lively brass and string section, some mutated electronic washes, guitars and overlapping bits of chatter from radio broadcasts and you'll think that Brewis and company were channelling Dolby himself during the recording. Similarly, the arrangements are intricate, complex and reward repeated listening and provide us with 32 minutes of dramatic, elegiac and melancholic 'off the beaten track' pop. Its an economic, surreal concept album, beautifully produced and engineered.
...a travelogue about a train journey sung superbly by Brewis, swirling around in a beautiful arrangement of piano and strings and those trademark stomping drums (Running Up That Hill, anyone?)
This cinematic sound is the backdrop to an intriguing set of songs that dig into the media-saturated world around us to tell a kaleidoscopic story about identity, kidnappings, bureaucratic nightmares, train journeys, isolation and the loss of love. It's a yearning, questioning pulp fiction with a psychological edge. Learn To Learn gets the ball rolling with those aforementioned drums, lots of stabbing strings and guitars, punching keyboards and great percussion. It's an anxious track, 'I expect to learn to learn, with nowhere to begin from' sings Brewis and we're thrown into a struggle about storytelling and the truth. The Good Life adds a great vocal chorus and some Belew-esque guitar squalls where shades of Heaven 17's backing vocals from Temptation come to mind. The lyrics seem to describe some kind of battle with media power. A battle won if It's All Gone Quiet is to be understood with its undulating synth line, Reich like vibraphones tinkling away and big piano motifs. A paean to a thrown out television set.

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Stand out tracks are The Airport Line and Scratch The Surface - the former a travelogue about a train journey sung superbly by Brewis, swirling around in a beautiful arrangement of piano and strings and those trademark stomping drums (Running Up That Hill, anyone?), and the latter with a poppy Simple Minds - like Up On The Catwalk opening with an itchy guitar wending its way under the booming drums and piano. 'So give to me some purpose, you've only scratched the surface, the cover's coming off again' intones Brewis as some psychological trauma engulfs the narrator and he sinks beneath a barrage of chattering voices and little 'ooh ooh' bird-like vocal passages.

Yesterday's Paper
starts so quietly with tinkling percussion and piano and spins into a psychedelic, prog-pop epic in the vein of XTC. Again, it seems to describe lies and truths as handled by the media when it's covering the news. It builds into a mass of attacking drums as Brewis decries about doomsday and intones 'the worst is to come'. It's got a Thomas Dolby like widescreen quality and swaps bombast for a cute little funky break in the middle with some gorgeous string sections. Come Home is sweet and melancholic and seems to be an entreatment from a worried partner who's wondering why the narrator has gone a bit media-mad. It's lovely and lonesome, borrows a bit of Del Palmer bass and mixes it with lush strings and rapid piano motifs and finishes with a whispering, repeating female backing vocal 'there's no one to take you home...the lights are on'.

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This is done with such flair and an obvious affection for certain 1980s pop maestros that it can quite comfortably be described as one of the best made, best sounding albums of the year that immediately seizes nostalgia by the scruff of the neck and pours it into a beautiful new suit.

The Week That Was - The Week That Was (Memphis Industries CD MI0121 - Released 18th August 2008)

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