wears the trousers magazine

the fiery furnaces: i’m going away (2009)
July 3, 2009, 12:37 pm
Filed under: album, mp3, review | Tags: , , ,


The Fiery Furnaces
I’m Going Away ••••
Thrill Jockey

Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger, the sibling driving force of New York’s Fiery Furnaces, have developed a reputation for changing direction with every new record. Their 2003 debut drew superficial comparisons with The White Stripes, and their subsequent journey through acclaimed obscurity has taken in the resolutely radio-unfriendly Blueberry Boat and Rehearsing My Choir as well as the more accessible ’70s and ’80s retro pillaging of Bitter Tea and most recent album Widow City. Shifting conceptual gear once more with I’m Going Away, album number seven has been proposed as a collection of songs to soundtrack an imaginary sit-com, perhaps, as the band themselves put it, as “theme songs to folks’ own personal versions of ‘Taxi’.”

One can easily imagine lead single ‘The End Is Near’ being played as tragicomic credits roll, with Matthew and Eleanor blissfully singing of mutually assured destruction over gently tinkling piano. It’s a personal apocalypse chalked in pastel. Elsewhere on the record, what emerges is something close to early Super Furry Animals in its mastery of lazily melodic pop-psychedelia, heavy with piano hooks and drifting guitar riffs, which seems to fulfil the label’s promise of ’70s sunshine-glazed piano pop. But it’s the deviations from this main drag that tend to stand out: the title track, for instance, is a gorgeous garage-blues growl with a bassline like a revving motorcycle. Every road taken leads to a satisfying destination, though, from the Cocteau Twins-dusted reverie of ‘Even In The Rain’ to the Southern Gothic thunderclap of ‘Staring At The Steeple’. Even the few moments which might be regarded as filler, like the marginally welcome-outstaying shoo-be-doo of ‘Cups & Punches’, are either imaginative or endearing enough to sustain the interest of a casual listener.

As always, Eleanor takes the lion’s share of vocal duties, her smoothly intricate melodies flowing over the music like liquor over shards of jagged ice. Having opened the album with teeth-bared intent to shake off the shackles of current circumstance, she tosses in subsequent references to journeys underway, recalled or anticipated. The album sees her variously pursued to Manchester, riding pillion to Lake Geneva, harnessing the Gulf Stream and getting lost at sea. When not detailing these cross-country adventures, her lyrics ably sketch out static small-town melodrama in ‘Ray Bouvier’ and ‘Cut The Cake’.

The giddy, obnoxiously toe-tapping closer ‘Take Me Round Again’ is a lyrical highlight, weaving together repeated scraps of nursery rhyme, ballads, blues and Broadway. This Burroughsian blend, while stirring up impressionistic euphoria, gets swept along in a swirl of shimmying rhythms and rippling keyboards undercut by a vaguely military percussive shuffle. It’s impossible to sit through the song’s six or so minutes without your shoulders, hips and fingertips wanting to jump up and join in. The penultimate line of the chorus, “the longest way around is the sweetest way home”, also brings the conceptual journey full circle. I’m Going Away is an accomplished next step in a career of radical departures.

Rhian Jones
UK release date: 24/08/09; www.myspace.com/thefieryfurnaces


FREE MP3: The Fiery Furnaces, ‘The End Is Near’


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