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Living Outside

Sense Field

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Album Review

The breakout success of "Save Yourself" in 2002 was due neither to fluke nor bandwagoneering. Even as far back as 1994's Killed for Less, Sense Field showed the ability to sprinkle its punk and hardcore influences with crocodile tears, so the issuing of a three-minute soundtrack to an emo kid make-out party wasn't very far-fetched. Living Outside is as conscious a follow-up record as there can be, but it's likely also the record Sense Field would've made anyway, even without the band's mainstream ascendancy. Outside was written principally by guitarist Chris Evenson and vocalist Jon Bunch, and they've looked to new wave and 1980s guitar pop to define the album's sound. Synths and processed loops turn up throughout, in part replacing the contributions of guitarist Rodney Sellars, who opted out of Sense Field to focus on family issues. The whirring, fuzzy electronics plop "No Medicine," "Take What You Want," and "Haunted" somewhere between Depeche Mode and Garbage. But a completely unpretentious Cure cover is a winking reminder that the guys in Sense Field are old enough to draw their '80s influences from their high-school music collections, instead of a bag of studio tricks. Meanwhile, the broad melodies and fervent vocals (from the always reliably ardent Bunch) of "On Your Own" and "Feel What You Feel" approach the grandeur of the band's breakthrough ballad without brazenly rewriting it. The production presence of Brad Wood on four of Outside's tracks refines the sound a bit too much, occasionally suggesting the populist supermarket alt.rock of Collective Soul. But though it's been sanded smooth over the years, Sense Field can still stump from the punk rock platform, as "Running Behind" and "Burn" attest. For the latter, Wood layered strings into the mix, and tries to rely on the space created from a skittering piano break to build tension. But it's in one-on-one lines like "No I don't want to meet you to talk/So stop coming by my work" where "Burn"'s urgency actually lies. Moments like this leave Living Outside's surface a bit rough, and help it exist as the next Sense Field album, and not simply the next Sense Field album since "Save Yourself."

Biography

Formed: 1990 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

California's Sense Field originally consisted of vocalist Jonathan Bunch, guitarist Chris Evenson, guitarist Rodney Sellars, bassist John Stockberger, and drummer Scott McPherson. They began playing together in 1990, forming from the ashes of Evenson, Stockberger, and Bunch's prior group Reason to Believe. The following year the group released their self-titled EP on their own record label, Run H2O. Based on the EP's success and the group's consistent touring, Revelation Records distributed their...
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Living Outside, Sense Field
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