Release Date: Jul 21, 2009
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Beware; if you were frustrated by the Friedberger’s hijinx in the past your feelings won’t change, even if this is a highly accessible album, for the Fiery Furnaces anyway. Not a 75-minute rambling epic, or a detailed narrative told by the Friedberger sibling’s grandmother, I’m Going Away consists of a dozen tidy tracks, making it the Furnaces' most listenable and user-friendly album since the ten song EP surfaced in 2005. This album is tempered and more concise, but in no way is it a cop out.
Some of the piano-led rockers on this avant-garde sibling act’s latest effort, I’m Going Away, are as accessible as anything in their catalog — not that there’s much competition in that category. Yet these moments of relative calm come sandwiched between typically overflowing puns, nervous-tic vocals, and guitar skronk that gets sprayed around like Silly String. Fans ?can breathe easy: The weirdness that so delights them ?isn’t Going anywhere just yet.
To find the jump-off for the Fiery Furnaces’ I’m Going Away, it is useful to return to the band’s 2003 debut Gallowsbird’s Bark. An injection of pre-rock and roll era sounds into the so-called garage rock revival, it was a raw music revue—a blues/folk/gospel/cabaret catchall that made room for plaintive numbers like “Rub-Alcohol Blues”, the up-tempo stomp of “Asthma Attack”, swaying sing-along “Up in the North”, and jagged, raw-boned pieces like “Don’t Dance Her Down” and “Crystal Clear”. Among reactions to the album was a too-convenient pigeonholing of the band, normally with reference to other superficially similar acts like the White Stripes, whose members had posed as brother and sister early in their career.
It's been a while since Fiery Furnaces released an album with songs that stick in your head. I'm Going Away, the Brooklyn band's eighth release, is full of them. Matthew Friedberger provides uptempo, herky-jerky romps laced with proggy guitar blasts and cheery piano, while his husky-voiced sister, Eleanor, fixates on contemptible relationships and "cups and punches" in her bluesy, ill-tempered growl.
The Fiery Furnaces have a well-deserved reputation for being difficult and willfully perverse both in concert and on record, so it may be easy to forget that the band started off fairly simple. Gallowsbird's Bark, their first and (to my mind, finest) album, is a free-wheeling blues-rock romp ideally suited to drunken sing-alongs in rowdy bars, albeit the old-timey kind that primarily exist in the fanciful imaginations of Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger. This sort of low-key, lowbrow tunefulness has always been a central component of the Friedbergers' aesthetic, even when they're off on proggy rock opera tangents, splicing their live shows into deliberately jarring sound collages, or roping their grandmother in to sing her own surreal, heavily fictionalized biography.
Listen to samples of The Fiery Furnaces' I'm Going Away on imeem. Easy, breezy and surprisingly coheezy The Fiery Furnaces’ seventh LP marks a curious stylistic adjustment: The band’s proggy dynamism is now set in the style of ’70s sitcom themes. I’m Going Away forms a hodgepodge narrative about escape using blues-rock throwbacks (“Charmaine Champagne”), dreamy piano ballads (“Ray Bouvier”) and an unmistakable homage to Clapton’s psychedelia (“Staring at the Steeple”).
The Friedberger siblings would like you to know they are an experimental rock band. Barely a few weeks passes without a press release from the Fiery Furnaces camp announcing a new and typically oddball release or idea. Recently it was declared that the duo were working on an entirely silent album, with written instructions and musical notation so you – the fan – can fill in the blanks.