The Fiery Furnaces
I'm Going Away
By Ben Grad
What do The Fiery Furnaces play on I'm Going
Away? They play a lot that you've heard on their previous albums, but
dulled, continuing the progression towards a more accessible, less challenging,
sound that they began with Bitter Tea in 2006.
Within minutes, you're reintroduced to all The Fiery Furnaces elements you've
heard over these last nine years: Eleanor Friedberger's distinctive voice,
lyrics which are structurally (short, repeated statements) and thematically
(loss, a certain mocking anger) similar to previous albums, and a tendency
towards escalating, looping, frantic musical breakdown. Pick any track at
random from I'm Going Away, and you'll recognize it as a Fiery Furnaces
song. Even with these similarities, Eleanor Friedberger and Matthew Friedberger
have made a definite effort in I'm Going Away to surprise first time listeners
and long time fans.
This album is less complex than their more conceptual mid-career albums, like
2004's Blueberry Boat and 2005's Rehearsing My Choir. Those earlier albums
were studio-honed masses of heavily altered vocals, samples, electronic beats,
and challenging, almost experimental instrumentation. In I'm Going Away,
Eleanor Friedberger and Matthew Friedberger stick with drums, guitar, and
piano. Their sound draws on R&B and '50s rock – hook-heavy guitar
screeching through an occasional dull wah-wah, piano leading on most
tracks. By halfway through I'm Going Home, the formula has become
tired. And by the album's end, you'll be wishing that The Fiery Furnaces
had decided to go more Rehearsing My Choir, and far, far less Widow City in
their latest release.
The Fiery Furnaces play Variety Playhouse tonight, August 20.