The Fiery Furnaces
Gallowsbird's Bark


3.5
great

Review

by The Katz brothers USER (183 Reviews)
September 30th, 2006 | 8 replies | 4,636 views


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist


2 of 2 thought this review was well written

The Fiery Furnaces are an indie pop duo made up of a brother and sister from the city. Sister Eleanor sings like Janice Joplin’s ghost and play’s guitar like a drugged up Jack White from Montreal, while Brother Matthew shreds the neck like a hairy, scary monster with a Phase Shifter. Eleanor sings about nomadic life and screwed up relationships in her strong yet homey voice while Matthew accents each notes with his whimsical synthesizer and percussion powers to a result that is as funky as it is ground and hilarious. The band’s debut album Gallowsbird’s Bark often gets compared to the White Stripes, but it surpasses the color coded ex-spouses on almost every occasion (as far as songwriting goes) with its blend of Soul, blues rock and experimental indie. Even to a seasoned listener the band can at times seem more like a Psychedelic classic rock band then a 2000’s indie act, with chunky effected guitars and blues influences drizzled over every portion of the band’s delicious sound.

But Fiery Furnaces are in doubt a 2000’s indie act, using their debut album, Gallowsbird’s Bark as a platform for their anything-but-epic mixing of the decade’s fascination with post-punk and the classic sounds of Hendrix and The Rolling Stones (which would eventually develop into a whimsical form of indie pop). The de-composing pop of tunes like Bow Wow is perhaps one of my favorite examples of this albums ability to take something tight and cute and turn it into a disjointed, fantastic bit of noise. As the song goes on, with slight electronic workings, little drummer boy rat a tat tats and tinkering piano, it begins to fall apart, slowly, but surely. Synthesizers fall out of place, drums fall out of time and by the end of the song it begins to sound like someone dropped a heavily reverbed piano on the site of a toy soldier war.

Unfortunately Fiery Furnaces suffer the same fate as many an indie pop group. Their songs and fun, creative and interesting, but lack the energy and diversity to make a whole album amazing. Though the second half of the CD is most likely the best work on the record songs start to get tired from about the halfway point. Maybe it’s just the way I am, but the happier the music gets (no matter how screwed up the lyrics are) I keep hoping for it to fall. What this album needs, more than anything, is a depressing indie ballad. The White Stripes got that, and maybe that’s why I rate their CDs so high, but Fiery Furnaces just step over this crucial notion. Eleanor’s powerful, warbling vocals are probably my favorite part of the CD, but even they lose their muster after a short time. The CD is just too long for its own good. At least this is how it is until the last songs of the record. The album ends with the powerful and moving trio of Tropical Ice-Land, Rub-Alcohol Blues and We Got Back the Plagues. The combination of indie pop, blues and freak folk is truly a gift from god, making a more satisfying team than any good cop, bad cop scene ever. They make a beautiful ending, but even so, they can’t quite bring the album up any higher for me.

But though this may be the case, Fiery Furnaces’ Sleater-Kinney meets The Fall meets Jefferson Airplane instrumentation is one of the coolest I’ve heard come out of the Garage Rock scene. No matter if the album lacks in depressing ballad type material, the songs all do sound different. Some have a boot, scoot and loot country type feel and others have a fun “toytronica” feel, full of descending keyboards, electronic beats and atmospheric guitar playing. Many songs are also spiced up with some peculiarly vintage piano lines, some having influences that go as far back as Wild West piano bars. Some of the Furnace’s piano lines would be as comfortable in a Pixies song as they would in an old pre-war film strip. And does Eleanor’s voice add to the songs? Do bears *** in the woods? Eleanor’s cute, but menacing warble brings a light to the most bluesy guitar riffs and puts a happy spin on all her darkest and most non-sensical lyrics. Think of it a Serial Killer reciting Dr. Suess, but the complete opposite effect.

All in all this was the CD that would eventually bring the Fiery Furnaces to surreal rock majesty, an album full of lo-fi indie rock, flowing lyrical poetry and danceable beats. The record’s over all effect is wondrous and fun, but with the added beauty of those last few tracks. I love all of the tracks on this record, but their order gets a bit over/underwhelming so for that fact I give this record an excellent 4/5.



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user ratings (25)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Roscoe
September 30th 2006



29 Comments


Great review. What I've heard from the Fiery Furnaces (Blueberry Boat) definitely was not what I would classify as indie pop, but maybe I'll give this one a listen and see if it is.

The Jungler
September 30th 2006



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hey, thanks for the vote.
If you haven't heard Rehearsing My Choir, then you should definetly hear that before this one it's the only other album I've heard from them and it is fantastic I may review it soon. I agree Indie Pop isn't the best description, but I think it describes a small majority of their sound.
And sort of random, but is your name a Midlake refrence? I love that band.

Roscoe
September 30th 2006



29 Comments


Yeah, it is a Midlake reference. They're great. I'll give Rehearsing My Choir a listen.

Equus
September 30th 2006



56 Comments


No.

Listen to EP and Blueberry Boat before you listen to any of their others.

Roscoe
September 30th 2006



29 Comments


I only gave Blueberry Boat one proper listen, and it was awhile ago, but I own it, so maybe I'll try it again before I go out and get RMC. I don't remember liking it too much, though.

Equus
September 30th 2006



56 Comments


EP is their most accessible album since it's pretty much a compilation of singles and stuff. Rehearsing My Choir is basically a long confusing concept album with lots of spoken word.

Roscoe
September 30th 2006



29 Comments


OK...I'll just listen to all of them.

EDIT: I just listened to Blueberry Boat again. There's parts that are really great, and some parts that are absolutely unlistenable. There isn't too much of a middle ground. I'll check out EP sometime.This Message Edited On 09.30.06

jeremologyy
November 7th 2008



259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They seem to do chaotic fast-moving ever-changing really well, but I actually find their tamer moments much more interesting. The final trio of songs on this album are some of the best they've ever recorded (especially the deceptively simple "Rub Alcohol Blues"). And as for other albums, I really like "Teach Me SweetHeart" and "Benton Harbor Blues" and "Birdie Brain."



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