Saturday, March 3, 2012

Having a Field Day

Marshall Crenshaw's 1983 album Field Day is about love and all of its trappings - particularly new love (not necessarily young love) and how it at first enraptures then eventually obsesses and blows apart.

Decidedly from a male perspective, the album is wonderous, naive and angry. Though you might miss the angry part as the tunes are so bright and hooky that, after a couple of listens, the songs are engrained into your subconscious - and not cloying.

It doesn't take long in Crenshaw's 10-song book to realize the singer spirals quickly from reverential love to frightening obsession to final, lonely acceptance of loss.

Field Day actually spawned a hit in 1983 (albeit on "alternative" radio stations) - the epic pop masterpiece Whenever You're On My Mind, which is sweetness turned to aching and addictive longing:

I never thought I'd be in this situation
It seems wherever I go I'm with you
And though I never seem to find my place
At every turn I see your face

But its One Day With You that captures love's dangerous ability to push people toward things they might not otherwise do (with self-deprecating tongue-in-cheek) - especially if the love is forbidden:

For one day with you
I'd risk ruin, pain and degradation
For one day with you
I would gladly ruin my reputation
Just to feel your hand, resting on my knee
I'd face danger, death or injury
Oh...believe me

Crenshaw's lyrics are so astute that if the words weren't wrapped in such gorgeous pop melodies, these songs would be downright scary. Thing is, they're all true.

At the time of its release, Field Day was considered "over-produced" by Steve Lillywhite (U2, Psychedlic Furs, Peter Gabriel, Dave Matthews, Talking Heads, Ultravox, and other notables). But hearing it now - especially on vinyl - the album is warm with dynamic range that's nuanced and subtle. Maybe in '83 it was considered overblown (the drums have an unnatural echo), but its a sonic joy. Scott Litt (the dBs, REM, Juliana Hatfield, Nirvana, Liz Phair, the Replacements) cut his teeth as engineer on Field Day.

Crenshaw's guitar work amplifies the comparable Buddy Holly hiccup - in fact Buddy Holly's ghost is always floating in the background of this record.

Field Day Tracks:

Whenever You're On My Mind
Our Town
One More Reason
One Day With You
For Her Love
Monday Morning Rock
All I Know Right Now
What Time Is It?
Hold It

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