Exposé Online banner

The Fiery Furnaces — Bitter Tea
(Fat Possum FP-1033, 2006, CD)

The Fiery Furnaces — Blueberry Boat
(Rough Trade RTA-83239, 2004, CD)

The Fiery Furnaces — EP
(Rough Trade RTA-83256, 2005, CD)

The Fiery Furnaces — Gallowsbird's Bark
(Rough Trade RTA-83226, 2003, CD)

The Fiery Furnaces — Rehearsing My Choir
(Rough Trade RTA-30060, 2005, CD)

by Cesar Montesano, Published 2007-03-01

Bitter Tea Cover artBlueberry Boat Cover artEP Cover artGallowsbird's Bark Cover artRehearsing My Choir Cover artA circus medley of distinct musical apparitions like a non-nasal Holy Modal Rounders of the twenty-first century with equal parts Jonathan Richman, The Velvet Underground, and Grease! Hey, Rizzo! Listening to these two maniacs is a rollicking frenzy of traipsing through some homemade musical mobiles. A blaring soundtrack to being happy with all that life throws you can be a whole hootenanny's worth of fun. The fact that this brother and sister duo have half a pork chop each, ingenuity, and a wild sense of jumbled humor, kicks the proceeding aural pleasures into high gear. Put button-downs on the Ween camp, jump into your favorite Jimi Hendrix go-go boots, and saddle up next to a computer to make up your own ditties, infectious and inspiring is their main à la mode. The Fiery Furnaces' attitude is certainly to be commended and lauded alike, there are too few bands willing to take risks to be a fraction of this unique. Some of it is certifiably genial. Idiosyncratic as they may be, the allusions and references to Captain Beefheart and the Residents which are being bandied about are only applicable when seeing though a limited and skewed looking glass. The missing ingredients are: maniacal genius and the calculated madness of the exactitude from crudeness exhibited by these past masters of insanity in their output. Any mention of Slapp Happy, Art Bears, News from Babel, or any of their many axes is downright blasphemy — don't believe it. There are more prevalent influences present in their catalog. Spates of Roger Powell keyboard arpeggios, snatches in Mort Garson-speak, and Duncan Browne-isms, or is that Elton John? Maybe a little of both. All these random mumblings aside, this is a hot new band with lots of spunk and spirit. Consistently awe-inducing? Not necessarily, but there are many flashes of brilliance. Regularly astonishing? Sometimes they even manage to blow you out of your chair with inventive ditties and abstruse stylistics. Super-catchy every so often? Gosh, yes! This is the next wave of the DIY movement that began in the late seventies and flowered into full force through the eighties. Here we have heralds, intermingling the tempestuousness of the mid-nineties burgeoning indie scene with its natural predecessor on a catwalk, strolling. Being somewhat at the vanguard of the left-field neo-indie-freak politic, they have a cult following, of sorts, ready to gobble up every morsel and call it ambrosia. I have yet to be inducted into such a morass of acquiescing characters, although I can surely attest that they have talent and verve, in equal parts, quite a bit of each. This portends well for their future recorded career even if it does not reflect into what is presented from their stage performances. Amateurism has its place, leading to many a breath-taking result when all care and worry is flung to the far winds. This pair do that in spades and come up with pieces that are analogous to so many platters of buffet sandwiches. I used to buy fine Italian cold cuts, crusty breads, tangy mustards, and varied cheeses from an old world style market. After some time I found that they taste of all this deliciousness was not as fresh as it once was. It took me a while to realize where my folly was stemming from. In my eagerness to enjoy all and every flavor, without delay, I had summarily been making what basically amounts to the same combination ad infinitum: an "everything" hoagie. Once I recognized this folly, the true experiments of expression began by my making significant choices and decisions on what to include and what to leave out. This sort of jurisprudence with regard to the kitchen-sink aesthetic dominating the body of their releases should net many a catch. Listening to all of their albums in a row is exhausting. It can be likened to a storytelling defibrillator engulfed in acts of non-sequitur editorial. They could use a healthy dose of curtail prowess to match their notational wits and nestle these sprawling albums into tidily whittled and concisely expurgated ephemera. But that is what everyone else is saying anyway. Start with EP, it's their most cohesive and controlled. Then proceed to Blueberry Boat for addled zaniness, Bitter Tea for a logical conclusion, Gallowsbird's Bark to get into how it all began, and then, only then, when you are ready to be fully immersed in their familial world, grab the last piece of the puzzle with their grandmother in tow: Rehearsing My Choir.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 34, 2006 releases, 2004 releases, 2005 releases, 2003 releases

Related artist(s): The Fiery Furnaces

Latest news

2017-10-18
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Terra Firma - Earthbound – Climbing out the morass of thrash bands and Pearl Jam clones ascends a new Seattle area group with its feet rooted in Terra Firma and its head in the cosmos. Forget your preconceived notions of space...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues