The Fiery Furnaces
Widow City


3.0
good

Review

by Lewis P. STAFF
October 17th, 2007 | 25 replies | 6,331 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: With its lopsided smile and rough-edged manner, Widow City has a suave bad boy edge (in lieu of a smooth, productive ride) that is kind of charming. And it wants to remind you that, over, and over, and over again.

Widow City is too long. It’s brash and abrasive. It’s off-putting in its own skewed, indie pop way. It is the answer to the backlash St. Vincent got for being multiple caricatures. The point is, Widow City won’t be your cup of hot tea, especially if you don’t find Eleanor Friedberger a hottie.

But I digress.

Widow City is the bastard child of siblings Matthew Friedberger and Eleanor Friedberger and I mean it as it sounds (just note that this is the first time the siblings appear on the cover together). With its lopsided smile and rough-edged manner, applying quantities of bite and bark, it has a suave bad boy edge (in lieu of a smooth, productive ride) that is kind of charming. The Fiery Furnaces’ sixth LP, Widow City isn’t the focused, concept album its previous outings were and just plugs its ‘70s album rock into its high-strung indie sensibility, but there’s an accomplished gleam to Eleanor’s steel-toed persona. But to be charismatically blunt, you’ve got to sharpen your tongue and style; The Fiery Furnaces is just redundant, from its name to its roots. It’s not just the trick; it’s the allusion.

And like a tall glass of a potent cosmopolitan cocktail, ‘The Philadelphia Grand Jury’ shifts violently from distorted melancholy guitars to pop piano and back. It’s not only mind numbingly catchy but also a berating act of, Eleanor’s crisp, vocals mimicking the chord’s melody. “There are no more favors to ask. There are petitions to pass. It’s all their hands, it’s all in their hands,” she sings, long before the song has dropped into loud, crunching guitars. There’s no rhyme or reason to the song’s length, but I guess that’s the point: The Philadelphia Grand Jury is full of the most crooked sonuvabitches you can ever come across. But it houses most of the albums frilliest and most interesting surprises; catchy repetition abounds until the cocky piano finale of the title track.

But Widow City’s celebratory overproduction, distorting every blast of rhythm and giving every guitar melody a sharpened edge, gives the homebrewed lyricism silver-dipped witticism. Locked in the suburban utopia full of apartment complexes, duplexes and first dates, where love binds the indie pop to the tribal sexuality of Widow City’s tough exterior. Who could possibly deny Eleanor’s butch performance to the album’s best (and, tellingly, the most accessible) track, ‘Ex-Guru’? “’She means nothing to me now;’ I tell myself that everyday,” she sings into the sonic wave of the chorus, sliding into the thriller-pop tuned verse, giving into the monster. (It was the monster called lust, to which she had recently succumbed.) It’s a cloudy universe, one a transverse of melancholic pop with piano and cocky breakdowns, as in the most immediate hybrid of the two, ‘Clear Signal from Cairo.’

The best bet is treating Widow City like a soundtrack to the day than the cohesive album it won’t end up being; the album takes on a hazy quality to its edgier, more sedated Of Montreal formula, after a long hit of chronic. ‘My Egyptian Grammar’ becomes a wispy, kaleidoscope of harps and R&B styled backing, violins appropriately underscoring Eleanor’s feminine performance. How else to take in the awkward transition to the kitchen-noise percussion (bird tweets and slams, among others) that overturns ‘The Old Hag Is Sleeping?’ On a record brimming with decorative enhancements of its style, it’s fitting that the kick off into the latter half of the album (the once again overlong ‘Navy Nurse) would state its claim so appropriately: “It’s nice to go nautical when choosing a doormat,” Eleanor shoves into the surfer rock tune. ‘Navy Nurse’ is very much the complement to ‘The Philadelphia Grand Jury,’ though you might as well have the album on repeat by this point.

Indeed, by the time ‘Uncle Charlie’ rolls around (featuring the impressive technicality of Robert D'Amico, who seems to realize what the Friedberger siblings need to offset their pop grandeur), one can get trigger happy with the forward button. Stop to revel in the convoluted waltz and guitar slide of ‘Restorative Beer’ and Eleanor’s pseudo-rap to ‘Pricked in the Heart,’ and to let the doo-wop, piano berated title track to breezily end the album on a fortunately refined title track. It brings the album to a (slow gathering) head and just underlines the off-kilter awkward passages Widow City frequently drops, but it proves that the Friedberger siblings can craft a good pop song. They just can’t seem to tell when that’s enough. Come on.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
plane
Staff Reviewer
October 17th 2007



6085 Comments


Came out on the 9th, so date is wrong.

This was particularly hard to write so idk.

joshuatree
Emeritus
October 17th 2007



3743 Comments


i know what you mean, this band's sound is hard to describe.
im not sure if i want this album though
good review This Message Edited On 10.17.07

Yyy
October 17th 2007



289 Comments


um blueberry boat is their best album

first paragraph should have a pun

Widow City isn’t the focused, concept album its previous outings were
lolThis Message Edited On 10.17.07

Aficionado
October 17th 2007



1027 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Some of the writing seems all over the place, but otherwise good review. It just needs more organization.

This girl I know tries so hard to get me into this band, she thinks they're awesome. Whatevs.

plane
Staff Reviewer
October 17th 2007



6085 Comments


I was writing as I listened, and the album is sort of all over the place in that respect, so I would have to keep going back and listening to sections.

I mean, this album is really cool in sections (the chorus to 'Ex-Guru' is godly; bookending tracks rule) so I at least recommend it, but you could just condense it for yourself.

Eakflanderyof
October 17th 2007



2143 Comments


No offense planewreq, but I want to strangle the guy in your avatar

sgrevs
October 17th 2007



698 Comments


You say that this is the first time both siblings are pictured on the album cover? Yet I still see just the girl.

I've never gotten into this band, though I had Blueberry Boat at some point and I nearly bought it a few weeks ago again. Real good review anyway.

plane
Staff Reviewer
October 17th 2007



6085 Comments


He's on the back. I think I meant to put casing, so I'll change that and specify.This Message Edited On 10.17.07

smokersdieyounger
October 17th 2007



672 Comments


I've read a few reviews of this record n really wanna pick it up.

eakflanderyof is a fool I hate falloutboy but PATRICK STUMP>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Varg Vikerness

Fire Away
October 18th 2007



293 Comments


No offense planewreq, but I want to strangle the guy in your avatar
you cant do that he's too hawt

Neoteric
October 20th 2007



3243 Comments


he's a qt

plane
Staff Reviewer
October 20th 2007



6085 Comments


i'm offended

80vs90
November 2nd 2007



14 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i like this album a lot

joshuatree
Emeritus
November 2nd 2007



3743 Comments


i like you a lot

plane
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2008



6085 Comments


I've been spinning this a lot lately, and if more tracks were as good as "The Philadelphia Grand Jury" and "Ex-Guru" this would be so good.

Eliminator
March 15th 2008



2067 Comments


if there were like six less tracks it would be better

cbmartinez
March 15th 2008



2525 Comments


Album is pretty good, not as good as Blueberry Boat I don't think but still fun. Some songs can get tiring but I feel that way often when listening to some longer fiery furnaces songs. Songs from this album are awesome live though, they speed up the tempos and the distorted bass is so heavy on those cool parts in "Automatic Husband" and "Clear Signal From Cairo."

plane
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2008



6085 Comments


lol forgot i made a bunch of arrested development jokes in this review

cbmartinez
March 15th 2008



2525 Comments


I also don't care for the way this one is recorded.

Eliminator
March 15th 2008



2067 Comments


surprised Bitter Tea wasn't already in the database. such a bad album



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