The Fiery Furnaces: Eleanor Friedberger, Matthew Friedberger.
Additional personnel: Ryan Sawyer (drums).
The Fiery Furnaces can be lumped in only very superficially with other early-2000s garage-rock revivalists. Though comprised of a brother/sister duo (as the White Stripes claimed to be) and influenced by post-punk aesthetics, the Fiery Furnaces owe a much deeper debt to the tripped-out rock and pop of mid- to late-1960s. The group's debut, GALLOWSBIRD'S BARK, in fact, sounds like a cross between Jefferson Airplane's expansive song structures, the Seeds' grungy rock, and Paul McCartney's music-hall sing-alongs, all under the influence of Andre Breton's book MANIFESTOS OF SURREALISM.
The distinctive sound of GALLOWSBIRD'S BARK is defined by the dominant presence of piano and acoustic guitar (which heighten the charming, carnival-esque atmosphere), as well as lo-fi production and a sonic melange of keyboards, fuzzed-out solos, and frenetic drumming. Moreover, Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger's associative, literate, and witty lyrics set the music apart, as do Eleanor's sly, somewhat naive vocals. The songs veer from shimmery folk-pop ("Tropical Ice-Land") to drone-psych paranoia ("Leaky Tunnel") to absurdist children's anthems ("Inca Rag/Name Game"). In short, the Fiery Furnaces are intelligent, ambitious, unpredictable, fun, catchy, and raucous, and their splendid debut should definitely be heard by those seeking fearlessly adventurous music.
Q (12/03, p.124) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...A joy from start to finish..."
Uncut (01/04, pp.84-7) - Ranked #13 in Uncut's "Albums Of The Year 2003" - "[The album] remains fiercely original in its vivid wordplay and melodic elasticity."
Magnet (11/03, p.92) - "...Spiked with the sort of unspoken give-and-take that is developed through years of hair-pulling in the basement..."
Mojo (Publisher) (01/01/04, p.56) - Ranked #38 in Mojo's "The Best of 2003"
Mojo (Publisher) (10/03, pp.110-111) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...Endearingly tin-pot, their music follows an erratic, never-repeated logic....An oddball masterpiece, indeed..."