In our track review of ‘Protect the Humans’ from December 2006, Daniel spoke of how the song reminded him of Nick Cave and had “dark vocals about nothing”. The same could be applied to the rest of this release, Hello New World, from the London based band.
The Playing Fields have quietly gained an underground following and acclaim from the smaller sections of the music press (i.e. people like us). It appears that those who are prepared to write for the love of music are liking the Playing Fields and what their music has to offer and after an intense listen to this their first album, I can understand why.
The album is a mix of dark lyrics and instruments. Guitars riff hard, strings weave their way in and out of the music while the bass and drums fill the gaps in between. Each instrument has their own role to play in creating the sonic landscape. Sounding like the Bad Seeds or Arab Strap at many times, their music is gloomy in the right way but will undoubtedly split listeners on a first listen; like Marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it. But you won’t be left unmoved by this album.
Personal highlights from Hello New World include the wonderful ‘Sylvia Thompson’, with it’s repetitive lyrics and acoustic guitar riff, the song ploughs forward in a most pleasurable manner. A momentary episode of complete and utter madness sees the Playing Fields shout and shout again on ‘Drawings’. The song builds and builds as the narrator sings to a muse who keeps pulling him in. The military drum-beat keeps the pace of the song moving while maintaining the dark edge to the song. This is perhaps as dark and disturbing a love song that I’ve ever heard.
‘Protect the Humans’ is in much the same vein. Waxing lyrical about Batman and Superman, despair is apparent throughout the song. It breaks-down into a wail of driving drums, guitars and feedback. A great song, that in a weird way reminds me of ‘Spiders (Kidsmoke)’ by Wilco from their 2004 album A Ghost is Born. Non-sensical, yet amazing in so many ways.
The Playing fields also deliver slower acoustic rock songs perfectly. ‘Simply Confused’ sees the violin take the forefront and offer some much needed subtlety. Reminiscent of many a Nick Cave song, the feelings on display could apply to so many of us in today’s 24-hour life where love, friendship and work all compete for our attentions. We are all after all just walking through life simply confused. It’s a wonderfully simple and beautiful song. ‘Hello New World’, sees a brief moment of release. It’s as if the melancholy has been blasted away by the writing and singing of the previous nine songs. A wonderfully optimistic statement and one that sticks in your mind for a stupid amount of time after the album is over.
In Hello New World, The Playing Fields have delivered a very strong first record deserving of mainstream media attention. Whether this will be the case remains to be seen. It certainly is unconventional in many ways and completely different to what’s popular in the mainstream at the moment. It is however a great record and one that’s deserving of your time. It’s been a long time since an unknown band has appeared on my radar and completely surprised me. If you give this record a little time it may well surprise you too. Definitely worth a punt.