Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Herky-jerky, methed-out neo-vaudeville

I caught this curious indie combo down at Congress last night - the Fiery Furnaces. In one of the rare shows I’ve caught without ever having heard the band, I was neither disappointed or impressed.
All I can say is that somebody needs to reign in this trend of massively hyped NYC indie bands.
This year’s Blueberry Boat got an obscenely high 9.6 rating from the inexplicably pretentious indie reviewers at Pitchforkmedia. That follows an 8.4 for their 2003 album Gallowsbird's Bark.
What I saw was a herky-jerky, methed-out neo vaudeville quartet.
There was the cute-enough lead singer (apparently Eleanor Friedberger) in a hipster feminist retro black dress, the floppy hipster haired bassist and guitarist and a drummer so spastic the Animal comparisons sprung to mind immediately.
All in all though, an unimpressive live band. The barely played for an hour, and didn’t seem to think music needed to be segmented into songs.
It was just this non-stop speed-up/slow-down routine; a few measures of crunchy guitar chords followed by electronic keyboard screeches, repeat.
What words I did catch were intriguing, seeming like a halfway stream of consciousness chant that could only be filled with deep about the hip urban existence.
The melodies were fun, when they existed.
Amazon.com reviewers range from being “spellbound and giddy with pleasure” to saying the band is “even more pretentious than Radiohead; even less musical than Gwar.”
I guess the Fiery Furnaces are a specific, if not acquired, taste.
Then again, I was listening to clean-cut folkie John Stewart, he of the ballad “California Bloodlines,” in my car yesterday, which means I can’t possibly be cool enough to “get” the Fiery Furnaces.
An album would be worth a listen, I’m sure, but even at $6 I don’t reckon I’ll check them out live again.
There’s simply too much else going on, even just this next week in this desert outpost.
Calexico tomorrow, Dan Bern in Flagstaff Saturday, Rilo Kiley Tuesday...

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Fiery Furnaces are from Austin Texas. Their live show actually didn't/doesn't sound anything like their recorded material. And I think their ratings on Pitchfork were actually fairly accurate, Blueberry Boat is really good.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, they're from chicago. but moved to new york? okay.

Anonymous said...

I think you're not giving the Fiery Furnaces a fair shake. To say they sounded like they were on meth is to denigrate the intricacy of what they do to their music in a live setting. Honestly, as someone who has listened to both of their records a lot, I think it's hard to understand what's going on unless you're at least a little familiar with their music. The way they arranged the entire set was actually pretty smart, segueing in and out of different songs, changing arrangements in a live setting, and repeating material to create a thematic thread throughout the show. Granted, the sound at Congress seemed a little muddy, but come on, they are obviously awesome musicians. And their lyrics are great. A lot of them are travelogues or long, meandering adventure narratives. You should listen to their records.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to sign it. That last post was from Mark.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear that you still listen to John Stewart! What a good son you are!

catfishvegas said...

Fair enough Mark. It's always interesting to see a band live without having heard any of their music first, but it's rarely makes for a better experience. I'm definitely open to giving an album or two a good listen, so let me know if you got any to borrow...
Still, I think there was enough I could tell at the show that great or not, FF really aren't entirely up my alley.

Anonymous said...

I'll burn you "Gallowbird's Bark" and "Blueberry Boat." Just lemme know when you want them.

-- Mark