Although formed three thousand miles away in Southern California, Sense Field — singer Jonathan Bunch, guitarist Chris Evenson, drummer Scott McPherson, guitarist Rodney Sellars and bassist John “Slow Johnny” Stockberger — conceptually grew out of New York’s ’80s hardcore scene, crafting a thoughtful sound built on progressive and diverse musical ideas, superb chops and shared personal conviction. The band’s songs are populated by easy-to-identify-with characters — dissatisfied romantics, reflective dreamers, challenged ideologues — whose lofty goals and impassioned thoughts add righteous majesty to the quintet’s dramatic music. A variety of aural ingredients — snappy pop melodies and vocal harmonies, Pink Floyd-inspired soundscapes, sweeping AOR pomp and polish and enough hardcore edge and urgency to make it all stimulating — and an often-startling use of dynamic morphing makes the band’s albums enticing and provocative.
Sense Field, released shortly after Killed for Less, repackages the band’s two self-released EPs, adding two previously unreleased songs (“Greater Than” and “First Things First”). The pretty Lennonesque melody of “Dreams” and the reached-promised-land of “Found You” (which was rerecorded and included on Killed for Less) are among the highlights.
Packaged handsomely with paintings of elegant ballroom dancing scenes by Gavin Oglesby, Killed for Less delivers myriad influences whipped by the band’ savvy inventions. Smart vocal harmonies give way to sucker-punch howls from Bunch; lulling acoustic strains are often met by fiery, anxious riffs. There’s rarely a dull moment. The title track is both inspirational (“now I can move you without pushing you”) and downright frightening (“heaven help me, I’ve killed them, killed them, killed for less”), while “Voice” (another song recut from Sense Field) may be the least offensive power ballad since Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Maker.”
After signing with Warner Bros. Records, Sense Field released Building on Revelation in mid-’96, capping off its indie career. Or so the group thought. The self-titled album they made for their new label was never released, and they moved on to Nettwerk.