The Fiery Furnaces – [Album]

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

There is a fair amount of audacity in releasing a double disc collection of live music—one that stretches across six sides of 180 gram black vinyl. But audacity, the willingness to say “fuck it, let's do it,” has been a large part of the draw of the Fiery Furnaces. To release a record like this makes sense if you're Miles Davis, or if you've just recorded an all-star concert for Bangladesh—but like I mentioned, for the Fiery Furnaces, it is part of the draw. This set of music captures their weird, relentless and verbose art-pop in just one stage, possibly the last, of its development.

Anyone who has seen the band perform knows that they literally do not stop for more than a few seconds, playing the songs from their albums as a near medley where the key tracks are played in their entirety, but often rearranged completely, and performed so closely together that it feels continuous. It demands a bit more from the audience as you realize that you aren't going to get the chance to sing along to your favorite song from Blueberry Boat and that you aren't going to get the whizz-bang electro-bass immediacy of "Single Again." What you will get is record-setting amount of tempo changes and an impressive amount of lyrical recitation from Eleanor Friedburger while brother Matthew basically plays a variety of carnival fanfares on the organ and the band pounds out a frantic mix of entry-level progressive rock and spastic indie-art-freakouts.

The problem here is that that they are so concerned with not playing the same thing twice that their songs come off too loose, the weirdness forced, and the message diluted. Granted, there's plenty here that is great—their mixture of obtuse storytelling and muscular, clunky changes can be amazing and they definitely are a great live band, but there is a hollowness to the songs, a heartlessness that becomes clearer and clearer the longer the record plays. And brother, this one plays for a long time.


The Fiery Furnaces – “Wicker Whatnots (Live)” – [mp3]

Remember will be out August 19, 2008, on Thrill Jockey.

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