Why Do You See It Your Way?
In Defense of the Fiery Furnaces
OK, it IS bizarre, and really random. Does that bother you? They're having more fun with words than you are listening. OK. Yet I don't feel any posturing behind it; they don't strike me as art-damaged, or pretentious. I've never seen a photo of them*. Maybe they are proud waifish inked-up beautiful things. I don't really care. As long as they don't look too much like Conor Oberst, I'm sure I can live with it.
Oh, right, the music. Well, their music is adventurous to say the least. It's ambitious to the point of contrivance. But I think indulgence is precisely what their charm is based on. When I listen to EP, just as I did with Blueberry Boat, I trust the songs to get to the right place, at least four or five places actually, on each track. On Blueberry Boat, each song was a miniature Abbey Road side two - short punchy verses colliding with thick guitar dirt colliding with flashes from some strange slow anthem. (note: I don't give a shit if the famous Richard Meltzer referred to Abbey Road, along with Hunky Dory, as "time killers/fillers" trying to compete with television - I think they are brilliant albums) And it's more of the same on EP (which, by the way, has ten tracks - what's the definition of an EP again?), maybe not with the same scope and magnitude of Blueberry Boat, but with the same energy and precision.
The Furnaces, from what I've read and heard, are an extremely polarizing band. You love them or hate them. I've played their albums for many of my friends by now, and have gotten almost nothing but "turn this shit off" in return. Yet a few swear by them. What it is about this band that elicits these responses? I think it was Bukowski who said "if too many people like your work, then you're doing something wrong." Well if that's the case, Matt and Eleanor Friedberger from Oak Park, IL (a.k.a. the F.F.'s) are right where they should want to be - marginally successful artists in a position to try anything. And whatever they do decide to try next (I've heard it's a project involving their grandmother) is sure to create a buzz.
OK, so I've almost given up on putting them on when certain people are around, just to save them the apparent agony of hearing this "rubbish." Let me just say: that's fine, but next time you put in your moldy jam bands, high-brow Newgrass (yes, I'm aware of the tonal qualities of their instruments, and their price tags - and no, I'm still not impressed) or your cathartic Lillith Fair femme-folk, I might just speak my mind too. OK. I guess I just did.
*Note: Ramón has since seen pictures of this brother sister duo and finds both of them handsome yet respectable (he may or may not fantasize about Eleanor in a pastel blue mid-70's full-gathered tiered skirt).