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The Field Mice \ Biography

Seventeen years is more than a lifetime in Pop. Seventeen years is longer than the time it took to travel from the start of the Elvis legend to the end of The Beatles; nearly three times as long as it took to go from the end of the Beatles to the birth of the Sex Pistols. In Pop, seventeen years is the time it takes for legends to grow into parodies and for memories to fade to emptiness.

The Field Mice were together barely three years, but it never felt like that. Nothing ever does when you're young. You could slot nearly another six Field Mice careers in the time since they dissolved on stage in Tufnell Park, and there's something simultaneously comforting and terrifying in that. How many bands did you fall in love with over that time? How many more did you miss?

The first time I heard The Field Mice was like the first time you hear anything that you feel is special. You know how it goes: ripples along your spine, butterflies kissing your eyelids, violet shivers in your heart and the world opening up before you like the morning sun kissing the mountains of the Alpujarra.

I'd been buying singles on the Sarah label ever since it started. Before that I'd devoutly devoured all the Sha-la-la flexi discs and treated fanzines like Are You Scared To Get Happy like my bible. For some teenagers in the late 1980s this was considered normal, but that such teens were few and far between was in hindsight probably for the best.

I'd loved all of the first eleven Sarah releases unreservedly. Well, all except The Golden Dawn 7" of course, about which I suspect everyone felt the same: a record so extreme in its incompetence, it was surely released to just piss people off. That and to make them realise that buying every release on a label was a collector's idea of buying music, not a music fan's. Implicit in this idea, naturally, was the awareness that in fact it wasn't, and that the whole joy of the Pop consumer experience is one of contradictions so self-reliant that to attempt to over analyse them is to begin digging a hole from which you can never climb out. So from the strident fuzz of 'Pristine Christine' to the Byrdsian chimes of the Springfields; from the trembling, trebly unholy soul of the Orchids to the so fragile it might break in your hands heartbreak Pop of Another Sunny Day; from dead of night escapades to paste 14 Iced Bears posters on the prom walls to sunkissed afternoons ironically singing 'Please Rain Fall' and wishing I really could wear my fringe like Roger McGuinn's, Sarah records was a light in which the world always seemed brighter and in which I felt less alone.

Sarah 12 (the 'Emma's House' EP) was something else entirely though. It unfolded calmly and with the rare fluid grace of natural beauty. Like those great Buddy Holly records, The Field Mice sounded magically minimal and yet so full of wonder all at the same time, and they simply took my breath away. Whilst still faintly redolent of a late '60s soft pop daydream, The Field Mice reminded us more of a not so distant past where people like Thomas Leer and bands like The Wake constructed perfect bedroom Pop masterpieces using cheap electronic beats coloured with luxuriously laser guided melodic bass lines and guitars so elegantly Up-tight. Oh, and a natural grasp of the language of Pop.

It wasn't so far away from the bedroom Pop of the contemporary underground House and Techno kids either, though there were few who spotted it at the time. These connections of course would become more apparent later, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

It was impossible not to empathise with Bobby Wratten as he sang in such a beautifully resigned and tragic manner of love's lost and never found in the first place; of friendships decayed but ringing clear in your heart regardless. "I'm not brave, I'm not special. I'm not any of those things" sang Bobby on 'Fabulous Friend', and our hearts just melted. In a handful of lines, he cut to the core of what it meant to be young and in love with the very notion of love and with the possibilities of the Pop medium, be it music, words or images. If you closed your eyes and thought about it, you could almost see the words floating in a comic book thought bubble over Peter Blake's denim clad and badge adorned self-portrait, or replacing the text in one of Roy Lichtenstein's silver age of comics' doomed romantic heroines.

But let's burst some bubbles here. Let's displace some myths: It was never about low self-esteem. I mean, personally I never disliked myself; I was just a bit clueless. It was one of those typically British things I think; a case of never having been told about the currency of looks and money and power, and hence growing up uncomfortable with any cultural artefacts that dealt in that currency. I think this is partly what coloured a lot of the British independent Pop scene back in the '80s. In those days that sense of British reserve still permeated into our psyches, much more than it does today. Our parents remember were, on the whole, still too old to have really experienced (or perhaps more accurately, to have understood) the cultural significance of either the 'swinging' '60s or the fledgling seeds that were being sewn in the Formica coffee bars of the '50s. Sure, they lived through those times, but they never seemed to be connected to them, did not seem to have been consumed with the very essence of the Pop experience as we did. Instead their umbilicals tied them to the austerity of the '40s, and so there were things that were never spoken about. Sex and money and power being just a few of them. Or maybe that's just me and my experience.

These days there is a received truth that says the '80s indiepop scene was against sex, that it was asexual. This is largely nonsense. Of course it was about sex. Pop after all is essentially the culture of teenage (and I'm assuming here you accept the notion that by 'teenage' I mean an abstract way of being rather than a time that starts at 13 and ends the day you turn 20 - time being as arbitrary a method of gauging things as any, after all) and there are few things more important to the teenager than sex. Sex is naturally central to all Pop music. If Pop isn't about having sex it's about wanting to have sex and being denied having sex. Or if you want to be romantic about things, if Pop isn't about being in love, it's about wishing you were in love, and when it boils down to the base elements, that's really about sex. So go figure.

If there is any truth to the idea that late '80s indiepop was Against Sex, it is borne of a misunderstanding of the reasons behind the images and the fashions. People in hindsight seem to think too that indiepop in the late '80s was anti-fashion, but this just wasn't the case at all. Like the great man said "if you're so anti-fashion, wear flares". And indiekids certainly didn't wear flares. No, the fashion of the return to innocence that permeated the visual image and the sound of so many groups was carefully constructed as a refusal of the predominantly sexist and testosterone laced dominant culture, these being times, of course, before the wholesale fracturing of cultures to the point of fluidity; times when the very idea of a dominant culture was one which still carried weight. There was no Internet and only four television channels (for some of us outside the reach of the Channel Four signal area, a mere three).

And me, well I always thought 'Emma's House' was a sexy record in it's own special and subversive way.

'Sensitive' though was the single that made most people sit up and take notice. I first heard it on a tape that Bobby sent me in early January 1989. There were five tracks, including the two tracks that would make up Sarah 18, and the two that would later appear as the first 'proper' vinyl release on Bob Stanley's Caff label (the first release being a great East Village / Cathal Coughlan flexi). That tape was my constant companion for so long, or so it seemed. Really it would have been just a few months, but at a time when a week seems like a decade, those months were a lifetime. The songs made me gasp each time I heard them, and 'Sensitive' especially stole my breath with an assured quickness. It was the classic contradiction of sound and lyric. Over a pounding beat and marauding guitars that made out like the Shop Assistants skipping school to play White Light White Heat in their bedrooms, Bobby sang lines about sunsets making him cry. It was a masterpiece of contradictions, and hence classic Pop.

'Sensitive' hit so many marks that it couldn't fail to make an impact on its listeners, and though there is a great story about a copy being torn from the record player and hurled against the wall at a Seattle party in the early '90s, that impact was usually for the better. Writers at the leading French monthly music magazine Les Inrockuptibles made it their (to date only) unanimous Single Of The Month, and thereby sowed the seeds for a long term French love affair with the band. In the UK meanwhile, astute radio listeners voted the song into the upper reaches of the legendary (and now much missed) John Peel Festive 50.

But let's get back to sex, and if you doubted that The Field Mice were about sex, then you just had to listen to the opening track on the Snowball 10" album. 'Let's Kiss And Make Up' was as breathtaking in its way as 'Sensitive' had been. Sultry and sleek, it was like smooching behind the bike sheds and stroking fire-kissed hair in the dunes by moonlight, swaying to the sound of heartbeats meshing all the time. It was the sound of skin warming against skin, of lip lifting upon lip. Even in this form 'Let's Kiss And Make Up' was a classic dance record. It's reinvention in 1990 as a post-Acid-House dance classic by Saint Etienne simply made its roots more obvious for those who perhaps hadn't spotted it initially.

Snowball was a great artefact, not least because of its 10" format (the best vinyl format ever) and for it's beautiful, unadorned, mauve cover. I had a t-shirt that replicated the mauve square, but which had 'The Field Mice' in white printed in the corner. I always thought that spoiled it slightly, would have preferred the purity of the simple square of colour. But maybe that was me and my Pop snobbery. As for the songs, well, aside from 'Kiss And Make Up' my favourites were always 'End Of The Affair' and 'White'. The former was neither a daydream of a Graham Greene novel nor homage to Weekend's delicious faux-jazz genius (although it might easily have been both) but simply a razor blade of parting company. "Now I can't stand being in the same room as you. I can't even stand the sight of you" and though the accepted narrative stance is that it's autobiographical, never is it apparent if this is Bobby recalling words heard spoken to or by himself. It's a song that treads the difficult line of being painfully personal and gloriously universal. It's a trick that only the greatest of Pop can pull off. 'White' meanwhile was a more intense retread of the ground that 'Sensitive' paced with such steely aplomb and I placed it next to My Bloody Valentine's 'You Made Me Realise', The Velvet Underground's 'I Heard Her Call My Name' and New Order's 'Broken Promise' on mixtapes. That New Order connection, I always thought, was particularly important.

In the late '80s there were people we used to call Factory Funsters. These were people who had developed often unhealthy obsessions with all things remotely connected to the legendary Manchester label and it's associated off-shoots and collaborators. I had several friends who were Factory Funsters, and almost to a one they hated all things Sarah with a passion. Then they heard The Field Mice. Specifically they heard 'Let's Kiss And Make Up'. They spoke fervently of its brilliance, and noted the similarities to Factory and Crépuscule acts like The Wake and The French Impressionists (and, lest we forget, The Wake were by this time also recording material for Sarah and were sharing members with fellow Glasgow band and Sarah outfit The Orchids) Naturally, they were right. Later, reviews began to appear in the music press that talked of The Field Mice being the missing link between New Order and The Smiths.

And, up to a point, they were right too.

Factory of course was one of the most notoriously political labels of all time. They eschewed written contracts and pressed records that lost money and you couldn't get much further from the politics of consumerism (whilst simultaneously embracing them) than that, surely?

Sarah had always considered itself a political label too. In some ways it was a gloriously ludicrous stance and the label was all the better for it. For those who had grown up in Thatcher's Britain the idea of a politically motivated record label made perfect sense, in the same way that any politically motivated art did. Growing up in the 1980s made you acutely aware of fences and lines drawn in the sand, and you'd better believe that everyone knew exactly which side of those divides they stood.

Of course there was something gloriously perverse about a record label appearing to operate under socialist ideals, and there has always been something impossibly romantic about the cottage industry of independent labels operating in what is essentially the global market of mediated emotional manipulation. This is part of the appeal, is one of the very qualities that attracts certain consumers like moths to flames: a desperate love of the mediated Pop artefact clashing with a sensibility that says it's all part of an evil global consumerism that must be fought at all costs. But of course embracing the very notion of contradiction is essential to the very nature of Pop's appeal, so go figure.

At some point in the early '90s the idea of left vs right politics seemed to slip from the public eye. People took their eye off the ball and it spun off into the gutter. Certainly in the world of indiepop notions of right versus left gave way to more overtly sexual politics as Riot Grrl fed into Queercore and vice versa, up and beyond. Not all of the Sarah groups may have shouted as loudly as, say, Huggy Bear or Bratmobile, but they did have Boyracer. And anyway, Blueboy's quiet revolution always seemed so much more eloquent.

And speaking of quiet revolutions, there were the Field Mice, who had explored ideas of sexual politics on the Snowball 10" album in the shape of 'This Love Is Not Wrong'. On the two 7"s that made up the January 1990 Autumn Store release meanwhile, 'Song Six' took a swipe at testosterone-loaded men and the way they treated women. It sounded all painfully honest and it was certainly impossible to misinterpret, but I know more than one woman who balked at the idea of a man singing words about how horrible some men are, and who suggested that this was nothing more than a shady attempt to impress the indie girls: In effect, the accusation went, songs like 'Song Six' were no more than cheap pick up lines for the intellectual and the politically correct, and in a certain light you could see their point.

I remember thinking that the whole Sarah aesthetic seemed to be like an anti-aesthetic. It was something that seemed to seep through the world of the independents like a cruel curse at the time. These were still years, after all, when Design was viewed with something approaching contempt, when the designer was somehow seen as being in the employ of the shady right. People still talked about 'designer stubble', after all, so up to a point it was a fair argument. As a design student, however, I couldn't help feeling that taking such a diametrically opposed stance was missing out on a lot, and as a result at the time I recall disliking several of the Sarah sleeves, and those for the Autumn Store singles in particular. In the intervening years however I've come to appreciate them more, and thinking about it now they were almost perfect, like some Malevich suprematist paintings, or El Lissitsky designs, and I'm sure Peter Saville would have almost approved.

As for the music, well, the songs on Autumn Store were more of the same, but more so. Some felt it was a reason to be critical but those people missed the point, the point being that there is so much more to the development of art than great lurches in style masquerading as progress. The greatest Pop implicitly understands the importance of formula. From Felt and Galaxie 500 to Phil Spector and SAW's Hit Factory, the value of similarity and the beauty of the nuance is well understood. The Field Mice too seemed to naturally embrace this notion, which is as well, since they had a magical formula to peddle.

With the June 1990 release of Skywriting however there were more obvious manoeuvres into the world of experimentation, and the group took a hand at blending a variety of genres into the Field Mice formula. The record certainly saw The Field Mice more explicitly exploring dance inflected territory, and you would have had to have been a fool to say it didn't become them. Sleeved in a modernist Mondrian homage, Skywriting kicked off with a sweetly oscillating techno gem in 'Triangle' that told of the kind of treatment Saint Etienne were giving to 'Kiss And Make Up'. Spacious and spare, the nearly nine minutes of 'Triangle' was like the ghost of an all night party round A Certain Ratio's house, with gorgeously melodious Peter Hook basslines wandering the garden of delights.

In sharp contrast 'Canada' was a madcap, melodramatically melancholic Country and Western jaunt that told of the pain that lies within the eternal love triangle. "He doesn't love you, I'm the one who loves you, he's the one you love" sings Bobby, and on and on it goes. In my head, 'Canada' was accompanied by a Monkees style video with Bobby and Michael riding horses and chasing a third shadowy figure through a West Country Wild West theme park. It's probably as well the idea stayed there.

Elsewhere, 'It Isn't Forever' blended a roaming bass, spectral synth washes and scratchy Josef K guitar bursts with insistent drum machine heart beats and pistol cracks. Over it all Bobby softly breathed out lines about longing, before eventually everything imploded in on itself under the strain of the passion, erupting with a cacophony of unease. It was a perfect mixture of dynamic sharpness and bleak cinematic romanticism; as perfect an example of the Field Mice formula fermenting into marvellous Pop potions as any.

Finally, there was the hypnotic techno collage of 'Humblebee'. A strange post-Cabaret Voltaire experiment that recalled the great Colourbox circa 'Looks Like We're Shy One Horse', if it had been on 4AD it would surely have been hailed as some kind of quirky masterpiece. But it wasn't, and it wasn't, thought there's still time, of course. Built around the sampled mantra of 'chocolate love sex' swiped from a BBC radio interview with Martika (go ask Google if you are fortunate enough to never have heard of her), 'Humblebee' was post-acid gurgling before its time. Naturally the Chocolate Love Sex slogan became a best selling t-shirt design, and who said indiepop fans didn't have a sense of irony or humour? The So Said Kay 10" EP that followed in September 1990 was the masterpiece of the Field Mice, a collection of moments that they may have come close to matching but which they never surpassed. 'Landmark', 'Holland Street' and 'Indian Ocean' were all sublime enough, but it was 'Quicksilver' and the title track that really stood out as moments that marked the group as something more than special.

I still quake and shiver inside every time I hear 'Quicksilver'. It reminds me of what David Bowie sang about there being one damn song that can make you break down and cry. If truth be told there is more than one, but 'Quicksilver' is way up there in the canon, mainly because it is filled with the essence of all great melancholic Pop. In other words it is all about loss and time, about moments missed and memories forever burnt into retinas. And like with 'Emma's House' the loss is painted in vague detail; it is never clear if the sense of loss is that of time elapsed, of lives and loves grown apart and away, or if it is of a more permanent nature. Ultimately of course it barely matters: "Dearly I would love to see you again" sings Bobby, and the ache is so acute you could take it in your hands and watch it dissolve like snowflakes. You can't get purer than that.

Except possibly in the EP's title track. 'So Said Kay' was written about the movie Desert Hearts, and by association therefore also Jane Rule's 'classic lesbian novel Desert of the Heart on which the movie was based; which essentially means that 'So Said Kay' was a song of a film of a book, which is quite some going when you think about it. You don't need to know either film or book to appreciate the song, but the understanding of the source material certainly lends the song a particularly eloquent quality, makes it work so beautifully as their ultimate sexual political commentary. It works so well because it is apparently ambiguous and can be enjoyed solely for it's perfect Pop poetics. For how can anyone fail to fall in love with a refrain that whispers "she reached in and placed a string of lights around this heart of mine" or the sublime magic of "ride with me to the next station, I want to spend another half hour with you"? These are lines, and more vitally, the delivery of lines that speak volumes of the magnificence of Pop at its best; they are melodies that haunt your reveries so fatally loaded with emotion they seem almost devoid of anything but the essence of emptiness and hollow promise.

In many ways 'So Said Kay' marked the high water mark of The Field Mice's feminine character, and maybe this is why it remains so special. For their next records the identity of a band would establish itself and the group would be guided into more recognisably masculine territory: The Field Mice formula was poised to bubble into a subtly new flavour.

The pleasure of Pop discovery of course is all to do with moments and memories, is all tied up with the ribbon of love, the hemp of death, the twine of distance and longing. It's got nothing to do with facts. The Field Mice always understood this. The Field Mice always understood the implicit connection between legend and great Pop; always knew that less is more and that making it up is often so much more interesting than being told the facts. Why else do you think there were never any photographs on their sleeves? Why else do you think there were never any writing credits printed? If you want to know the dull why's, when's and wherefore's of musician's lives then you can usually dredge it up somewhere, but often as not it tells you nothing about the music itself, informs you of the shape of the vessels rather than their sparkling contents.

It must be admitted, however, that music is made by people, and for the sake of preserving history, please note that the people in the first incarnation of the Field Mice were Robert Wratten and Michael Hiscock. All great Pop histories start in school, and the Field Mice's is no different, with Bobby and Michael first getting to know each other at their local comprehensive school (Tamworth Manor in Mitcham, if you must know, and Mitcham being, I am reliably informed by former 'owner' of half of Sarah Records Matt Haynes, 'a dull outer suburb of South London'). As teenagers are wont to do, they discussed the idea of forming a band, but as teenagers are also wont to do, they did nothing about it at the time. It wasn't until a few years later when they met again that the idea took proper root and started to bloom. The first result was a demo recorded during November 1987 in Ian Catt's bedroom. This demo famously found its way to a garden flat in Bristol, although it was a second bedroom escapade in April of 1988 that finally persuaded Clare and Matt of Sarah Records to sign the band. This second session furnished the released version of 'Emma's House', although only after a re-recorded version from a third session with Ian Catt in September of the same year had been ditched in its favour (this third session, did, however, provide the remaining three tracks to the EP). And since we're on names and history, Ian Catt is naturally a vital part of the jigsaw, playing out the role of name producer messing around with dials and knobs in his bedroom; a singular figure in the role of Joe Meek or Phil Spector, only, one rather hopes, not residing in Upney (one stop on from Barking, in case you didn't know). Courtesy of an introduction by The Field Mice to Bob Stanley, Catt went on to make his name working wonders of post-acid soft pop genius with Saint Etienne of course, but as far as I know he has never heard voices in his head or hung out with gangsters. But then again, he might.

The early Field Mice records were naturally strange and beguiling collisions between simple unadorned electronic and guitar music. It was easy to see The Field Mice as being like early Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark with a little more heart, or like Felt with a less virtuoso guitarist. On record this worked perfectly, and the space on the 'Emma's House' single in particular is a beautiful element that echoes with a perfect ache. I've said it before, but it's worth saying again, that really you could draw the line back to those great Buddy Holly records, and you can't give higher praise than that.

Live, however, it was a different matter. Bobby and Michael did play some shows as a two-piece, but it would be more than optimistic to say that the performances were anything more than mildly diverting. In time perhaps they might have developed a live act that would have done justice to the songs, but many felt that to play live successfully The Field Mice needed a Crickets.

By the time of the Autumn Store EP of January 1990, the duo had expanded to become more or less a trio with the inclusion of fellow Sarah recording artist Harvey Williams helping out at shows. Harvey had built a solid reputation releasing records under the Another Sunny Day moniker, and strangely he was another link to St Etienne, having played on their early records (he starred on the exquisite 'Parliament Hill' out-take from the Foxbase Alpha sessions that appeared on the horribly rare I Love To Paint fan club CD). With his Dorian Gray-like eternal youthful looks and his love of soft pop, he seemed like the perfect addition to the group.

Harvey's input to the recording of parts of Skywriting ('Canada' and 'Clearer'), and So Said Kay records should not be underestimated, but as a live act there was still a thought that said The Field Mice needed more depth. That depth was provided by the addition to the group of Mark Dobson on drums and 19 year old Annemari Davis on guitar, keyboards and additional vocals. Like Derek Christie journeying from Aberdeen to London with his trumpet to join the Jasmine Minks, it was a classic tale of fans joining their favourite band.

The first recorded fruit of the full band was the release of the 'September's Not So Far Away' 7" in March 1991. The lead track was a glorious Pop single that shimmered like June brides and swooped like swallows in the rain. With it's Byrdsian guitars chiming around the stratosphere, it was suffused with a more obvious '60s soft-pop feel than any of the previous records and was a delicious moment to treasure. Flipped over, the sparse simple guitar and voice delight of 'Between Hello And Goodbye' was like a simultaneous glance back at previous moments and a glimpse into the future, with Annemari's echo of Bobby's melody emerging wraithlike from the mist.

After the perfect four minute Pop song and sixties infusion of 'September's Not So Far Away', the seven minute electro-pop release of the 'Missing The Moon' 12" in September of the same year was a real eye-opener that reminded everyone who needed reminding that The Field Mice were a group with a thoroughly (post) modern outlook on Pop; were a group more than willing to branch out into different territories in order to realise their musical dreams.

The NME said that 'Missing The Moon' was the long-awaited meeting of Pop and Acid House. It was a lovely compliment that went well with its Single Of The Week award, but it was really a strange and ludicrous thing to say and suggested that someone hadn't been paying attention to some of the finest Pop records of the previous few years. At the very least it ignored the fact that in 1989 New Order had released their Ibiza soaked Technique album, and that in June of the same year A Certain Ratio had essentially made their major label debut with the peerless 'The Big E'. And if there was ever a record to claim any seniority in the (post)Acid-House Pop crossover, it was surely 'The Big E'. Then there was the Paris Angels' glorious 'Perfume', which remains one of the greatest Pop singles ever, and of course who could forget the fact that Saint Etienne had already released their Acid-Pop covers of Neil Young's 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' and the Field Mice's own 'Kiss And Make Up', not to mention their classic 'Nothing Can Stop Us' which famously borrowed from Madeline Bell's fantastic 'I Can't Wait To See My Baby's Face' for its trademark refrain. Naturally, this isn't to belittle the importance of 'Missing The Moon' (far from it), but rather to point out the danger of believing the words of music journalists.

Really, 'Missing The Moon' was another breathtaking addition to a slew of records being released at the time, many of which were revelling in the heady abandon of combining synthetic dance beats with electronics and guitars. It was a good time to be in love with the magic of Pop, and Liverpool's De-Construction label was as good a source of that magic as any, with classic releases by the likes of Marina Van Rooy (who herself had links back to the likes of The Pale Fountains) and Ariel (who had connections forward to The Chemical Brothers and the Heavenly posse). Indeed, Van Rooy's 'Sly One' and Ariel's beautiful 'Rollercoaster' remain two of the great unsung classics of all time, and whilst it's entirely possible that had 'Missing The Moon' been released on De-Construction it would have fared no better commercially than either of those records, it's nevertheless tempting to wonder what else might have been.

There is an argument that suggests that the expansion of The Field Mice to a five piece replaced the original fragile beauty of the group with a more masculine physicality: that the feminine quality of the group was essentially lost when, ironically, a physically feminine quality entered the group. Certainly some songs on the For Keeps album, released in October 1991, suggested a more muscular sound: 'Star Of David' oscillated between quiet whispers and lusciously loud expanses that rumbled like thunder storms rolling in over the peaks of Arran, whilst 'Coach Station Reunion' was a jaunty blast that could have students weeping in delight, and in my head it was always the sister to 'September's Not So Far Away'. There were moments though where the echo of an earlier Field Mice shone through, notably on the exquisite 'And Before The First Kiss' which glistened with tears and impossible regrets turned to love. It remains as perfect a snapshot of the essence of expectation and promise as any you care to imagine.

Elsewhere there was evidence of the band exploring what some were beginning to call the 'dreampop' or 'shoegazing' sound. A nod had already been given in their live sets, notably via their cover of Loop's 'Burning Sky', which they performed in front of a typically adoring French crowd at the start of the year. They later performed it again, this time in Paris on the For Keeps tour, a recording of which later found its way onto a flexi on the Waaaah! label. On For Keeps, however, there were original compositions that trod a similar path, with the opening tracks on both sides of the vinyl being in such a vein: 'Five Moments' was certainly moored in the familiar Field Mice landscape, but went off on a tangent that allowed Annemari's disembodied vocal to float untethered. It sounded like a Slowdive you could dance to. 'Tilting At Windmills' meanwhile was effectively an instrumental, with its Sketches of Spain wind sounds floating over a bleached out Cervantes landscape of washing guitars and elliptical bass line. Album closer 'Freezing Point' meanwhile sounded for all the world like it could have been either by Spacemen 3, or an out-take from Loop's The World In Your Eyes collection. Depending on your persuasion this was clearly either no bad thing, or a very bad thing indeed, and Field Mice fans argued long and hard about whether this meant a bright or diabolical future lay ahead.

In the end of course the arguments didn't matter, as The Field Mice effectively split even as the album was being promoted on their UK tour. Naturally endings are often necessarily messy businesses, and by all accounts the demise of The Field Mice was thus. But at least they had the good sense to bring an air of self-knowing occasion to the final moments: after encoring with 'The End Of The Affair' at London's Tufnell Park Dome, the band walked off stage with Michael pausing just long enough to whisper 'the end'. Somehow you couldn't think of a more fitting conclusion.

Alistair Fitchett

The Field Mice