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The Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat

Review: Jack Foley

VEERING from the sublime, through the ridiculous, to the downright surreal (and occasionally annoying), The Fiery Furnaces' sophomore effort, Blueberry Boat, is, as the previous description suggests, a very mixed bag.

Occasionally inspired, yet more often than not a little too experimental and 'intelligent' for its own good, this is a very acquired taste, which isn't interested in appealing to anyone who sits on the fence.

You'll either love it, or loathe it!

Come the end of the long-player, I must confess I fell into the latter category, despite finding plenty to admire.

Comprised mainly of Matt And Eleanor Friedberger, the Fiery Furnaces like to imagine that their audience will have an attention span of more than a few seconds - and set about testing it at every opportunity.

The ten-minute opening track, Quay Cur, is a case in point. Described as 'a meandering journey into the heart of darkness', it contains everything from swirling keyboards, tripped out drum loops, to gently plucked guitar strings and piano, separating each movement along the way into haunting childhood nursery rhymes and rollicking sea shanties.

It is also melodically reminiscent of a Brecht/Weill opera, with Eleanor taking the form of a latter day 'Lotte Lenya'.

Sound intriguing? Then read on....

Almost every track lulls you into a false sense of security, before spiralling off into meandering, child-like territory, designed to grab your attention and shake it about a bit, while supposedly proving inspiring.

When it succeeds, as in the gloriously tripped out Paw Paw Tree, which contains a foreboding drum beat, and loads of crunching, intruding guitars, the long-player really does become interesting and even stimulating.

But too often it falls into the trap of alienating the listener, to the extent that it makes for an arduous journey.

Comical interludes such as the off-kilter My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found, begin with rolling pianos and warped guitars, before taking a time-out in acoustic/street busker territory, and then veering into the operatic and absurd.

While the laboured Straight Street is anything but a direct journey into easy-to-like melodies, or catchy sing-along choruses, tripping you up on more than one occasion.

Recent release, Single Again, tended to show they could live just outside the mainstream, in the sort of territory Xfm listeners might revel in during the day.

And in tracks such as the early half of Mason City, there are elements of a breezy, care-free style that make it effortlessly feel-good to listen to, but even then the Friedberger's cannot seem to resist the temptation to mix things up a bit.

At 75 minutes, this is far from a smooth listen; you must be in the right sort of mood, bring with you a great deal of patience, and - most importantly - be a fan of the sort of late-night John Peel/John Kennedy DJ sessions that revel in playing this sort of experimental music, and then hailing it to be the work of genius!

Track listing:
1. Quay Cur
2. Straight Street
3. Blueberry Boat
4. Chris Michaels
5. Paw Paw Tree
6. I Lost My Dog
7. Mason City
8. Inspector Blancheflower
9. Spaniolated
10. 1917
11. Bird Brain
12. Catamaran Man
13. Wolfnotes

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