Hell Fiery Furnaces
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 31, 2007 4:45PM
The Fiery Furnaces have been a much discussed Chicago export over the last few years, but we admit they never really charmed us. We found their material a tad too unwieldy and impenetrable, and when they came out with that album narrated by their grandmother we were ready to just completely write them off.
Imagine our surprise upon hearing the crunchy glam concept-rock of their latest album Widow City. Siblings Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger have ransacked their '70s record collections and combined those influences with narratives and phrasing that are so inventive and rewarding they make Peter Gabriel look downright straightforward. Hell, we got the album's tracks for free and still went out and bought a physical copy because we just wanted to, we don't know, OWN it. It's an unusual mental exchange given the economic model of today's musical climate, but we think that's the key to why we enjoy Widow City so much.
We now see why the Friedbergers entranced so many with their albums in the past, since the duo has a knack for digging up and disturbing emotional turf with ease, creating a musical mise en scène that actually affects the listener. Put another way, Fiery Furnaces always had the tools, they just had to find the right vehicle to get through to our ears, and we believe Widow City is finally the disc that couches their emotive power in a suitable capsule.
This is now to say the disc is an easy listen. The opening track goes on for over 7 minutes and incorporates numerous tempo shifts as it creates its own mini suite as the protagonist awaits the verdict of a jury, sure that she is doomed, and that the jury was bought out long ago. Not exactly inviting, huh? But it is rewarding, and ultimately it offers a sense of emotional accomplishment in return for the listener's invested time. When was the last time you heard something like that?