Last week, longtime-South-Bay-but-wildly-popular-in-OC Sense Field finally released their new album, Tonight and Forever. And it's a gem, full of great post-emo, post-post-hardcore, post-post-post-melody and any number of other post- tags you could slap on what's basically just good rock & roll. There are moody, revved-up tunes like "Love Song," ornery enough to fit solidly into KROQ's all-anger-all-the-time format. There are wispy-but-meaty hymns like "Weight of the World" and crunchy, irony-drenched numbers like "Fun Never Ends" (which is more about frustration than fun, really). There are shimmering acoustic guitars and lush orchestral arrangements (hello, ProTools!) that give the music a fluttering heart and impassioned soul, something for which many younger bands strive but miss. It's a sound that's hummable, headbanging and somehow spiritual.
The album almost didn't happen, though, which leads us to the saga of the band's Valley-in-the-Shadow-of-Death hike.
After cutting a couple of fine albums for OC indie label Revelation, Sense Field got what they thought was their big break in 1996: a deal with Warner Bros., the gargantuan major, a major so huge, corporate and bottom-line-watching, in fact, that if things weren't going well at the label—if the label put out a record that bombed—then executive heads promptly went a-rollin'.
This happened a lot while Sense Field was on Warner Bros.
"We kept having to re-introduce ourselves to new people and executives," singer Jonathan Bunch told me last fall. "After a couple of years of that, there was no one who'd been there when we first signed with them. They just gradually became uninterested in putting out the record."
With new executive regimes came new album release dates, new marketing strategies, new arguments over what songs should make the cut—the kind of big-label politics that have destroyed perfectly good bands and driven great musicians to surrender their craft altogether. Given several options, Sense Field opted to be released from its contract, bringing an unceremonious end to what amounted to a sexless four-year marriage—all foreplay, no climax.
It wasn't exactly an amicable parting either. In a game commonly played in the music industry, Warner Bros. let Sense Field go but held on to the album's master recordings in exchange for what the band deemed an exorbitant sum of money. Sense Field had an alternative: take their songs to another label and re-record them on their own dime, which they did when a new deal came up with Nettwerk America.
Hence, Tonight and Forever. "An album five years in the making!" they could rightfully call it. But that would be perpetuating their bad-luck story, a headspace the band clearly has no intention of staying in. The track listing alone backs them up—out of 12 songs, just five are holdovers from their Warner Bros. period.
"We don't want this to become our story," Bunch makes clear. "We don't really want to dwell on it either. We want to move forward."
Sense Field perform with the Killingtons, Death On Wednesday and Four Panel Kid at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $10. All ages.
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