Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The New Love of my Life: The Fiery Furnaces!

Yes it had to happen sooner or later. After grieving from the loss of the Minutemen and Frank Zappa (I know, random, huh?) I didn't think I'd find a new love. I searched the stores and the internet like a lost, lonely lover, like Shane McGowan in some drunk romantic song. I'd gotten bored with so much music, it was thirsty for more. then I got a cd in the mail, randomly from my friend Eli. It was a mix compilation of this band called the Fiery Furnaces. Most of the tracks come from their debut album the "Gallowsbird's Bark" (2003). All of a sudden I heard the sound I had been waiting for.

the band is essentially made of two members: Matt and Eleanor Freidberger, a brother sister team hailing originally from Oak Park, Illinois. While they are the only two permanent members of this band, there are several live and studio musicians that make repeated appearances on their albums, most notably, their studio drummer (who I believe was Bob D'Amico for many of the albums, but I'm not sure).

The music on the albums varies widely on the albums from the live performances. The music on the albums has a very Devo-esque post-modern sound, much of it electronic based or supersaturated with effects, while the live performances keep with a very 70's garage rock aesthetic. Also, whereas there are very definite distinctions between songs on the albums, in live performance, the songs all sort of mesh together into one extended song. I think the reason the live performances are so different from the studio performances is that so much of the recordings are dependant on sound manipulation that cannot occur live. It's incredible though, because it makes seeing them a completely different experience from listening to their music, almost to the extent that you feel like they are two different bands. They've got a really creative sound that melds so many different sounds into a melange of music that is distinctly their own.

The first album for the uninitiated listener would be their debut album "The Gallowsbird's Bark". It is by far their most accessible record. The songs range from 2 to 4 minutes in length and feature non of the idiosyncratic blurps and beeps and wicker whatnots of their later albums. The notable songs from this album are "South Is Only a Home", "I'm Gonna Run", "Bow Wow" and "Tropical Ice-Land".

The next album I'd recommend is "Widow City". This has more of a seventies rock feel, much like their live performances. There is a very linear quality to the songwriting. It bursts and blasts with guitar zeal and the drums are the finest I've heard on any of their records. My favorite tracks from this album are "Clear Signal from Cairo", "Ex-Guru", "Navy Nurse" (featured on the soundtrack to the film "Choke"), and "Restorative Beer", but virtually every track on this album is a gem.

All of their albums are great and I haven't hit that moment with them yet where I find their music repetitive or dull. It may happen, I certainly hope not, but I'm still in the honeymoon stage with this band and I intend on stayting that way as long as I can.

Oh, another interesting note about this band: they recorded an album about and narrated by their grandmother Olga Sarantos shortly before her death in December of 2007. The album is full of so much heart and emotion, it is definitely a keeper, if a little more difficult to absorb than the aformentioned albums. Definitely give it a listen