The Fiery Furnaces are an experimental indie rock group from Brooklyn, New York. They primarily consist of Matthew Friedberger and Eleanor Friedberger. The brother and sister are originally from Oak Park, Illinois a suburb of Chicago. Their name is a reference to the film ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and is also found in the Bible.
The inventive, often challengingly experimental rock band signed with the Rough Trade music label in 2002, and recorded their debut album, Gallowsbird’s Bark, the same year. Released in the autumn of 2003, that album garnered critical praise for its clever wordplay and original songwriting and was often compared in the press to The White Stripes due to the garage blues elements of the band’s sound and the fact that the band are siblings (The White Stripes sometimes promote themselves as siblings, though they are not).
The Fiery Furnaces are bizarre, funky, quirky, friggin’ catchy and any other adjective you can think of. The brother and sister team of Matt and Eleanor Friedberger have composed some of the weirdest music I’ve heard in ages. But, somehow it all works. Upon first listen, you may pass it off as some sort of goofy, novelty music. Give it a few more listens, and underneath the layers of bumps, clicks, guitars and Casio beats there emerges some of the coolest, catchiest pop tunes you’ve heard in a dog’s age.
After the day I first heard their latest release, EP, a collection of ten a- and b- sides, I caught myself humming these tunes in my head incessantly. Though, its title may suggest otherwise the Fiery Furnaces latest outing is so much more than an EP. Trying to describe the Fiery Furnaces’ sound can prove to be quite a chore. The songs are somehow fluid, mechanical, flowing, and lush all at the same time. How they are able to fuse the heavily layered keyboards, acoustic and super-fuzzed wah guitar into a seamless pop song is beyond me, but the Friedbergers make it sound effortless. Once you listen, you won’t be able to stop, and with every listen, something new emerges- a vocal loop you didn’t even realize was there, a riff here, a beat there, and with each listen there’s a new perspective emerges. Miraculously, music that appears so complex and layered turns out to be some of the best straight-up bubble-gum pop, and vice-versa. After listening to EP you’ll be dying to delve into their 2004 magnum opus Blueberry Boat. At a staggering 76 minutes with songs lasting in excess of ten, it’s quite a chore wrapping your head around this one- but, not unlike EP you’ll witness something new with each listen, just on a much grander scale. I personally recommend giving EP a go to get you acquainted to the Furnaces and to give you time to digest the sound before taking the plunge into Blueberry Boat.
The Fiery Furnaces have stumbled onto one heck of a sound. A sound that, if given the chance, you will fall in love with and be humming all the way to school and back.
Review by Emma Loggins