One of the blogs favorite bands of recent years, The Fiery Furnaces are always worth checking out.

 

‘I’m Going Away’

 

Thrill Jockey Records 2009 LP Version

up-FieryFurnacesImGoingAway

Track list:

Side 1.

I’m Going Away

Drive To Dallas

The End Is Near

Charmaine Champagne

Cut The Cake

Even In The Rain

Starring At The Steeple

Side 2.

Ray Bouvier

Keep Me In The Dark

Lost At Sea

Cups And Punches

Take Me Round Again

The Friedbergers, our very own awkward indie version of the Carpenters, return with their latest LP I’m Going Away a rather pleasant and subdued listening experience which echoes some of the more commercial sensibilities found on their last opus, Widow City yet lacks a certain punch.

This easy listening inspired album tips its hat towards the melodies and arrangements found on Carole King and Burt Bacharach songs, but manages to give them that off kilter approach and abstract quality that is to be found on Pavement’s records. In fact the influence almost borders, oddly, on Bond themes in parts – I’m thinking The Spy Who Loved Me and Octopussy.
On title tune itself we are treated to a bluesy/rockabilly ditty that rushes straight through at a breakneck speed. ‘Even In The Rain’ reminded me of George Harrison era ‘All Things Must Pass’, whilst ‘Keep Me In The Dark’ goes all American collage rock on us, as a poodle permed guitar lick plays out over an angulated pop tune.

As usual the lyrics are observational and manage to shoehorn in some elaborate references, which feature a cast of characters that share a suburban light middle America, think Jack Nicholson in ‘Five Easy Pieces’. You only need to look at the art work to see that this group mean to create a environment rich with the kind of soap opera like lives that throw up those often trivial but important little nuances that speak volumes. This set of songs use allegorical statements such as found in ‘Lost At Sea’ and ‘The End Is Near’ while we find ourselves in the centre of some love quarrel on ‘Drive To Dallas’. A unique picture is painted and every track fits into a bigger picture.

This time around the Furnaces have gone for a more accessible sound, which is still way out there compared to most of their contemporaries but lacks the excitement and originality of Widow City. Don’t get me wrong this has plenty of those juttering time signatures and features many surprises still. In fact it has a touch of maturity to it, which leads me to believe that they have found their natural stride, though I won’t say comfort zone, as the connotations don’t sit happily with me. Warm and homely this record will easily slip into the top albums of the year just give it a chance.

The Fiery Furnaces

 

Supported by Esben And The Witch and some strange fellow and his minidisc player.

Audio, Brighton

7th October

 

The Fiery Furnaces
The Fiery Furnaces

The torrential October rainfall, which would have usually put paid to me having a good night couldn’t be dampened as I stood waiting for Esben and the Witch to begin the night.

No I persevered as my soaked socks and wet t-shirt dried out after three hours of standing in Audio. In fact I even forgot that my stupidly tight jeans had shrunk in the rain as soon as hearing the band make ready for their performance. Taking to the stage as though preparing for some esoteric ceremony surrounded by Victorian props, such as a rather fetching wooden owl and old oil street lamps from some stage production of Sherlock Holmes, Esben and the Witch attentively and sheepishly began the first stirrings of a magnificent and brooding set.

Lead singer and Gothic glam siren Rachel is flanked by the duo of guitarists Daniel and Thomas, who with heads bowed play intricate riffs and melodies through a cacophony of effects building all the time to the songs punch line or laying down a crescendo of macabre textures which never quite but always threaten to reach a climax. The focal point is a solitary bass drum and cymbal in the centre of the stage, ala An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump set up, which Rachel often lets rip on when not directing proceedings or occasionally playing the bass guitar. All the time her vocals, which sound like a heroic clash between Siouxsie Sioux and a more sombre Florence Welch, steer the moody trio through some often choppy and rarely chartered musical waters.

Most of the current EP ‘33’ was offered with some tracks that I’m not myself yet familiar with but which sounded pretty good and further cement these guys as one of the UK’s best kept secrets, though I’m certain this won’t last long as some of the national press have started to cotton on. ‘Marching Song’, ‘About The Peninsula’ and ‘Corridors’ all sound more animate then the recordings, in fact you could say they where brought to life with both the playing and the theatrical display – at one point all three of the band huddled round the bass drum together, played a combination of beats at the same time over an already pre-recorded backing track. A hark back to the days of Jesus and Mary Chain perhaps, an Eighties that I would relish being sent back to.

They may take time to grow on you and demand concentration, the atmosphere has to be right which on this occasion it was as the musicianship is all very delicate and looks on the surface underplayed. In fact they take their cue from Johnny Greenwood and his shoegazeing doodling style of playing. Esben and the Witch delivered tonight and showed me that my initial interest was well warranted. Doom pop with a twist.

 

The second support act shambled on stage in over the top Vegas style sunglasses, a Russian hat and a big old sheepskin like flying jacket. At first I thought he may just be someone from the crowd who decided to wander up on stage but once he put his minidisc player on a stool and addressed the audience we all realised he was indeed one of the supporting acts. I don’t even know his name but he delivered a strange set of observational and wry tunes that lasted for a couple of verses and chorus before the next one kicked in. His stage act was edgy and full of humour and his voice came across like Suggs trying to narrate the back catalogue of Lou Reed. The concept seemed to be haphazard but it all seemed to be pretty stage managed yet proved refreshing, like a mix of poetry and uncomfortable performance in one package. Our main man grimaced his way through his assemble of itchy subtle electro beats and twisty ambient soundtrack, titles such as ‘God Of War’ consisted of him profonticating his status while aiming a few lines at open toed sandal wearers. His closing track had an unsettling moment as the backing track played for nearly two minutes before our stood still and motionless protagonist uttered some words, he seemed to be caught in the headlamps lips slightly parted. A welcome interruption to tonight’s main event.

 

Our headliners The Fiery Furnaces take to the stage rather unannounced and break straight into their stride, both awkward but melodic they mess about with the original versions of there songs changing the time signature or lyrics around to fit. Showcasing the latest LP I’m Going Away, the Friedbergers and their bass guitar/drum-backing group performed a myriad of scattered tunes from Single Again all the way up to Widow City favourites like ‘Duplexes Of The Dead’ and ‘Japanese Slippers’. Leading the set was Matthew on lead, who always reminds me of the actor Bruce Campbell, whilst his sister Eleanor in her old US khaki war jacket much like the ones worn in Vietnam, confidently addressed the audience throughout, her voice in fine fettle.

The backing minus a couple of slip ups, were tight and the bass player must be congratulated on some impressive playing, especially when the timing changed from the super fast almost incomprehensible to half time in only a couple of bars. Also the drummer made some quip about his snare being on the wrong side as I think he dropped his sticks on one feverish song but managed to keep the whole thing together nonetheless.

Highlight wise for me was my current favourite tune ‘Keep Me In The Dark’ one of the poppier tunes off I’m Going Away, which always puts a smile on my face with its highly infectious hook and sheer unadulterated feel for John Hughes type teenage throwback angst from 1985. Some of the tracks got heavy and took on a motor city feel like the Stooges or MC5 especially on ‘Starring At The Steeple’ as they took artistic licence to their own music. ‘Drive To Dallas’ had a slightly more omnipresent hard leaning sound invigorated with notes being pulled out of the bag or plucked from the air.

Their sound seems to go from mid American friendly guitar solos found in the Eighties to the Seventies guilty pleasures of soundtracks and dare I say it almost Carole King territory melodies, though all with a certain tongue in cheek yet I can’t help but feel there is a real soul in their music especially when seeing them live. Eleanor may have a drawl and dry wit but there are some real emotional stirrings on display, original on both the playing and subjects, it seems they always manage to hit a stride and feature strong melodies. Why their not about ten times more popular I’m amazed, if you don’t own a copy of their albums feel ashamed. Closing on ‘Japanese Slippers’ after throwing requests to the audience, the show came to a quick end, though they did do a packed hour set so I’m not complaining. They say there be back which I hope they will as I’m already in need of some more.

Esben and the Witch caught live
Esben and the Witch caught live
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