Music Reviews

Fiery Furnaces EP

(Rough Trade) Rating - 8/10

EP, my ass. This "extended player" from the Fiery Furnaces, or as I like to think of them, the anti-Carpenters, contains 10 songs and runs for 41 minutes. Revolver, the greatest album in the history of popular music, clocks in at 35:01. So don't go telling me this isn't a proper album. You and I both know what the EP tag means - this is an album of leftovers, odds and ends, and experiments that weren't worthy, wouldn't fit or weren't done in time for album release. So why waste your time, right?

Wrong. It just so happens that the seemingly boundless creativity the band had shown on their first two albums, Blueberry Boat in particular, was in fact not bounded by the LP limits imposed on them. Their cup of invention runneth over onto this delightful and only slightly inferior release. I say slightly inferior only to point out that some of material, particularly in the albums latter half, does not reach the same heights that Blueberry Boat maintained for its entire length. Still, there are no throwaways here and even the weaker selections, like Cousin Chris and Sweet Spots, contain some Fiery magic.

Right out of the gate, EP is as strong as anything the Furnaces have done. Single Again reads like an old Delta Blues number, with a battered woman forcefully declaring "He beat me, he bang me, he said he would hang me, and I wish I was single again." There's a great element of ambiguity here when the first husband somehow dies (did she kill him?) and she marries another who does the same thing. Here Comes the Summer has some delightful Moog synth riffs that form the backbone of a cheerful tune. Evergreen, Duffer St. George and Smelling Cigarettes are cut right from the Blueberry Boat mold; heavily piano driven, with Hendrixian guitar outbursts and, for the latter two, a restless search for a new direction in which to take the song.

So while EP is not a revelation in the way that Blueberry Boat was, it does serve to consolidate and further the Furnaces' reputation. The great ideas, the wonderful hooks, the mish-mash of styles, the jarring juxtaposition of old forms and modern, even mundane lyrical content ("don't you key that brand new Camry"), all are present in abundance and transcend the stopgap nature of most EPs.

So far the Fiery Furnaces are turning out to be, dare I say it, the best band this young millennium has yet produced. We'll see if the Arcade Fire can give them a run for their money, but I'm just happy to sit back and watch the race.