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For Keeps

The Field Mice

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Album Review

What turned out to be the only full studio album the Field Mice released was also nothing less than a quietly triumphant masterpiece. Building on the strength of its string of great singles while keeping its own particular character and mood, For Keeps — a sly and sharp title, given how many of the band's songs reflected both love's creation and dissolution — found the five piece full of gently impassioned creativity. It could be the subtle funk wah-wah guitars on the opening "Five Moments" or the blissout psych droning of "Tilting at Windmills," but writing the Field Mice off as simple twee pop types would be a hard task for anyone after a listen to this album. In the end, the group stood apart from all the early '90s scenes swirling around it to make its own mark. Davies' softly cool vocals, winsome without being cloying, brought both greater variety and range of emotion to the songs. Wratten's still in fine voice, and together their duets work perfectly, almost defining the form that many other bands clearly inspired by them would take. On his own Wratten experiments with his voice, adding flanging to the just-epic-enough guitar build of "This Is Not Here" and elsewhere piling on the echo and other tricks for fine variety. The subtle musical nods all over the map fit the band's impressive range of influences, while avoiding drowning in them. There's the hint of late-'50s/early-'60s tearjerker drama in "Star of David," for instance, heightened by the sharp growl of the guitars against the slow, building punch of the drums. In the end it's the Field Mice, but it's a much more accomplished and intriguing Field Mice than the band's detractors (and possibly many of its followers) would ever give it real credit for.

Biography

Formed: 1988 in Surrey, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s

The flagship band of the legendary Sarah Records, the Field Mice neatly encapsulated the label's trademark wispy, lovelorn pop sound and remain among the most beloved British cult bands of their time. Debuting in 1988 with the single "Emma's House," the Field Mice were originally comprised of singer/guitarist Robert Wratten and bassist Michael Hiscock; initially dismissed in the U.K. press as little more than twee pop fluff, over the course of subsequent releases like 1989's "Sensitive" and the So...
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