The average home contains so much detritus on its shelves: dust, empty sweet wrappers, out of date tinned food, unread copies of ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘Ulysses’. Daylight Saving Records clearly has a higher quality of material languishing in its vaults waiting to be rediscovered. The five songs on this EP date back to recording sessions in 2007/8 in which founding Field Music member, Andrew John Moore, was backed by David and Peter Brewis on what became known as ‘John Monroe’ songs (based on an old mishearing of his name).

The songs have recently been revamped and sound magnificent. In a year that will have seen the Brewis brothers releasing records that veer away from the band’s template with David’s acoustically based and string quartet centred ‘The Soft Struggles’ and Peter’s forthcoming Yellow Magic Orchestra tinged, predominantly instrumental collection ‘Blowdry Colossus’, it is ironic that ‘Songs from the Shelf’ is the record sounding most like Field Music that Daylight Saving Records has released.

Lead track, ‘Sleeping on the Floor’ details a wayward nocturnal schedule and has a great piano melody, lovely guitar work and plentiful tempo shifts, including a psychedelic fairground-like interlude. The fondness for rapid changes suggests a kinship with another former Field Music member, Ian Black, whose album with Slug, ‘Thy Socialite!’ was the label’s first release. The piano is even more predominant in ‘I Don’t Mind’ which has the air of a north-east Billy Joel, although, ever cosmopolitan, the accordion and arrangement has a French feel to it and gives the song a lift. With Pete Fraser’s tootling saxophone and handclap rhythm, ‘Eleven’ is another golden pop song. The lyrics to ‘Driving suggest frayed nerves and bad decisions but none of that applies to the music in which the piano shifts rhythmically, reminiscent of a manic Steely Dan (however much of a contradiction that sounds). The final track, ‘What Did You Say’ starts with a martial rhythm, before throwing in some thrilling harmonies and satisfyingly timed swerves in tempo. 

‘Songs from the Shelf’ is a wonderful exploration of the possibilities of piano-led pop songs and an example of the joys that can be lurking on a Sunderland shelf.

John Monroe and Field Music: Songs from the Shelf EP – Out 30th June 2023 (Daylight Saving Records)

John Monroe and Field Music – Driving

I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.