29 July 2009

Review: The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away

Originally published in NME
Considering that The Fiery Furnaces' last two proper albums were respectively a conceptual biography of their grandmother and the squelchingly dissonant and occasionally terrifying 'Widow City', the direction of their sixth was to be anyone's guess. A sprawling narrative entirely in the key of F minor about radioactive sewer rats? An electronic paean to Edgar Allen Poe's early work? Either would be less surprising than how 'I'm Going Away' has actually turned out: it's astonishingly normal. Well, at least for the avant garde Friedberger siblings.

But that's not to say it's pedestrian or predictable in the slightest - it's easy to imagine Captain Beefheart growling lasciviously over the bendy psychedelic fuzz of opener 'I'm Going Away', where Eleanor sings with the irritable vehemence of a woman wronged, a comic anger that's reignited on 'Cut The Cake'. Like Patti Smith doing her best Dylan impression, she rails sardonically against the press over Matt's enveloping baritone harmonies. The gorgeous 'Drive To Dallas' is a smoky, sensual image of rainy pathetic fallacy ("I'm not gonna drive to Dallas with blurry eyes ever again") that recalls the slow jam of 'Evergreen' from 'EP', and after the heavy resigned piano chords at the start of 'The End Is Near', the outro leaps and whizzpops as if drunk on a vat of spiked frobscottle. 'Charmaine Champagne''s ripped guitar sounds like a battered saxophone made from a rusted exhaust pipe, and Miss Champagne's rambunctious Soho showgirl verve is reignited on 'Cups And Punches', yelpy, progressive and daubed with grinding nods to the electronic stylings of 'Blueberry Boat'. Much like the great Don Van Vliet going from the absurdist 'Trout Mask Replica' to the more conservative 'Clear Spot' three years later, 'I'm Going Away' sees The Fiery Furnaces abandon their surrealist tendencies to work outside of their comfort zone, experimenting with conventional notions of structure and euphony like naturals.


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