FIERY FURNACES We don’t know what to think!
The Fiery Furnaces
Wed Oct 13
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside

The difference between you and me is that I always have to be right. It's that sort of righteous indignation that propels this music section week upon week--and if I don't passionately believe every half-thought assessment I toss off, our little dynamic will no doubt collapse. Unfortunately, sometimes I run into brick walls like the Fiery Furnaces. See, as is so often the case, I'm on deadline here, so the clock weighs heavy on my headphones--and with every listen to Blueberry Boat, the band's latest record, I find myself in a new purgatory of critical flip-flop. And "Two Shoulders Up" just doesn't really scream smug self-assurance.

Before we get too bogged in these complicated bits, let me first begin with the facts: as has been well-documented, the Fiery Furnaces' membership consists of two folks who share the name of Friedberger--this in the Carpenters sense. Eleanor and Matt, respectively--the Furnaces have released two proper albums on Rough Trade; the most recent of which, Blueberry Boat, has of late been receiving a great deal of critical debate. An ambitious monster of a record, Blueberry Boat is a heaving epic of verbiage and glutting studio overdubs--a keyboard-driven claustrophobia that collides song fragments into nine-minute fairytale narratives. The words come frantic and long-form, expanding exponentially on the Americana romp that was Gallowsbird's Bark, the band's debut. The band aligns their record with the early mini-operas of the Who--but the product comes off something like a rock reflection of Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle--less a series of complete compositions daisy-chained than it is a craftily clustered series of elaborate passages.

Which leads us back to this critic's self-indulgent conundrum: much like Song Cycle, I initially met Blueberry Boat with a distaste for it's seemingly senseless glut--but with each subsequent listen have found something to challenge my first impression. As their first fully integrated masterwork, Blueberry Boat is successful in that the same way that most of my favorite records succeed--namely, I still can't decide what I think. And I just can't stand that.