The Fiery Furnaces | I’m Going Away (Thrill Jockey)

cd_fiery.jpgI’m Going Away is a great album…again.



I feel like the press, who was so firmly behind them around the time of 2004’s Blueberry Boat, has more or less abandoned The Fiery Furnaces. This is probably largely due to the fact that their follow up and best chance for breakout success after the hype of Blueberry Boat was easily their worst album, 2005’s Rehearsing My Choir. With the new release of I’m Going Away, the siblings Friedberger have released eight albums in six years, and only one of those eight has fallen short of great. Name me another band from the past ten years who can match them in terms of both quality of work and being as prolific.

That is to say, I’m Going Away is a great album…again. What’s more, it seems hard to ignore that if this album had come out at the time of Rehearsing My Choir, the band would probably have a much bigger following than they currently do, as it is easily their most accessible album since their first, 2003’s Gallowsbird’s Bark. It’s of a digestible length (47 minutes, as opposed to the pushing-80 runtimes of Blueberry Boat and Bitter Tea), the songs tend to both be of radio-single length and have more hooks and less prog tomfoolery than longtime fans may be used to, and yet, it still bears their unmistakable stamp.

The first single they’ve released off of this album is "The End Is Near," which is, unfortunately, probably the worst track on the album. It is distinctly plain-sounding-nothing memorable in the lyrics, nothing memorable in the production. I heard it prior to hearing the full album, and it made me worry about the disc’s potential quality. Much better choices would have been either the fairly obvious but still quite wonderful "Charmaine Champagne" (probably the closest they’ll ever get to an actual radio-friendly single, alongside Bitter Tea‘s "Police Sweater Blood Vow") or even the longest track (almost seven minutes), the album-closing "Take Me Round Again," which has the best chorus, the joyous (if nonsensical) "I’ve got rings on my fingers!/ I saw a show called Carrie Marry Harry/ […]/ The longest way round is the sweetest way home/ I wonder who’s kissing her now." It’s a hell of a lot of fun to drive to, and will stick in your head as well as Bitter Tea‘s great album closer, "Benton Harbor Blues Again," did.

Aside from all of this radio-friendliness, they are still forging into new terrain. "Staring at the Steeple" has a greater sense of foreboding than what I’m used to from them ("The days are getting darker and I’m all alone/ We’re practically married but no you’re never at home"), and makes me wonder what type of music the Furnaces would be capable of if they were coming from a darker place. Not that I have ever worried that they will run out of ideas or new approaches to their music; they’ve shown no signs of either yet. A | Pete Timmermann

RIYL: Frank Zappa, Yo La Tengo, David Byrne

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