The Fiery Furnaces EP

[Rough Trade; 2005]

Styles: indie rock, folk, blues, post-punk, experimental, cabaret, theatrical
Others: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Bob Dylan, Captain Beefheart

There is a little hot dog place in East Lansing, on M.A.C. between Grand River and Albert, by the name of the Dog Pit (I plug them only because they desperately need the business, lest my lunch spot of choice go the way of the dinosaur. *sniff*). In an effort to drum up business, they offer patrons who manage to eat 12 or more hot dogs in one sitting a spot on their wall of fame. Though I have never accepted this challenge (for obvious reasons), I cannot help but feel a strange admiration for anyone who has the drive to stare the perversely impossible in the face, lick their soon-to-be hog-juice coated lips and say, "Hand me the mustard."

My admiration of the Fiery Furnaces has many of the same qualities. After dropping the bombshell that was Blueberry Boat less than twelve months after the surprisingly good Gallowsbird's Bark, most fans of the Friedberger siblings might have expected the pair to ride the ensuing wave of critical adoration for a more protracted period of time. One might imagine them basking in the almost-too-intense love of their growing legion of fans and scouring antique shops for first printings of the sheet music for The Mikado. Yet so great is their love for us that they give us a collection of singles and b-sides to tide us over until they release their next proper albums (yes, albums plural) later this year. And so great are the Friedberger's talents that this ten song EP is likely to be better than the overwhelming majority of albums others will release in 2005.

Attempting to describe the sound of the Fiery Furnaces in words is nearly impossible; their utterly bizarre yet eerily familiar songs schizophrenically bounce from genre to genre, and defy any attempt at metaphor or comparison. Whereas Blueberry Boat was a challenging (though rewarding) listen, the EP highlights the playful qualities of the band. "Tropical Iceland" finds Eleanor having "had enough stray ponies and puffins," on top of a jaunty track that almost insists that the listener do the pogo (or at the very least, the swim). "Duffer St. George" lifts the chorus from "Jimmy Crack Corn." And "Sullivan's Social Club" carries a staccato synth into a sea of bluesy noise. Along the way, one hears elements of '90s Brit-pop, early and late Beatles, garage rock, and bubblegum pop.

It is getting to a point where it is very hard not to love the Fiery Furnaces: at this point, the only obvious point of contention is the fact that the lyrics skirt the line between childlike and horrendous. And even this is a forgivable sin, if only because everything else about the band is so spot-on.

Long story short, this album is like a chili-cheese dog covered in Tabasco sauce; both are oh-so good, and both will blow your ass out for days after consumption.

1. Single Again
2. Here Comes the Summer
3. Evergreen
4. Sing for Me
5. Tropical-Iceland
6. Duffer St. George
7. Smelling Cigarettes
8. Cousin Chris
9. Sweet Spots
10. Sullivan's Social Slub}

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