Fiery Furnaces – Blueberry Boat

Fiery FurnacesBlueberry Boat (Rough Trade)

The Fiery Furnaces, loved by critics and the fashionista, are well placed to slot into cult-band status. And for sheer effort alone, they deserve the credit. Songs start, stop, advance, retreat, rise up, sink down and it’s like having the contents of an orchestra thrown at you in a variety of time signatures. Blueberry Boat opener “Quay Cur” is a case in point: it’s like Squarepusher-meets-Joan Baez-meets-Long John Silver-meets-Dr Seuss; it has a duration of ten minutes and to call it meandering would be offensive to long and winding roads everywhere. It also lacks the most important aspect of any long and winding road, a destination. “Blueberry Boat” is a drunken sea-shanty channeled through hurdy-gurdy’s, honky-tonk and Rick Wakeman’s cape, sung by your primary school teacher, there may be a good song in “Chris Michaels” (mp3) but it never escapes (actually there might be several good songs in “Chris Michaels” but none of them get out) and the equally confused “Chief Inspector Blancheflower” starts with Matthew Friedberger muttering over one of those pre-programmed demos you get on electronic keyboards and then becomes not unlike the episode of “Friends” where Ross discovers his “sound.” Of course it doesn’t stay that way for long, but despite the fact it’s relatively pleasant when Eleanor Friedberger takes over vocally, you’re still laughing at the intro.

When they play it straighter things improve: the impassioned “My Dog Was Lost But Now He’s Found” is strangely touching. About ¾ of “Mason City” with its patty cake beat and sing-song vocal is interestingly folksy, but then it just launches into squelchy electronic noises and nonsensical spoken word interludes. And therein lies the rub. The Furnace’s tiny attention span means any time you are actually start to like a given song, they yank the carpet out from under your feet, careering off in some other direction.

I can’t see the point of this album. More importantly, I can’t see when or where you’d want to play Blueberry Boat. If you want to impress a music journalist, namedrop The Fiery Furnaces. If you need an example of a genre-busting, modern day “rock-opera” for use in a dissertation lamenting the lack of creativity in current music, use Blueberry Boat. If you want a good Fiery Furnaces album that doesn’t feel so much like hard work, get Gallowsbird’s Bark.

17 thoughts on “Fiery Furnaces – Blueberry Boat”

  1. I agree 100%. Thank God I’ve finally seen a lukewarm review of this album. I was starting to think I was crazy.

  2. I saw the 9.6 on Pitchfork, which naturally piqued my interest. However, I feel no need to own such an indulgent album. Rock opera’s are never a good idea.

  3. The album is terrific. It’s a totally unexpected follow up to the debut. Kinda like I was hoping from The Strokes or Interpol. I love the odd lyrics and constant tempo changes. Each song is packed with dozens of ideas and they pull it off so well. The album is long, but flows so well I don’t even notice. When or where to play this album? How about anytime, anywhere, and often.

  4. I totally understand why some people slag this album. It’s definitely bewildering on first listen. That said, if the alternative is Matchbox 20’s new album “Beige” then I’ll pick the Fiery Furnaces every time.

    It has taken me awhile to wrap my head around some of the songs, but the effort is definitely worth it. Kudos for making an album that’s utterly impossible to describe!

    When the tempo of Radiohead songs jump around (Paranoid Android) nobody seems to mind :-)

    Could Blueberry Boat be more focused? Sure. But then it wouldn’t stand apart from the rest of the popsters. It’s a ballsy little record.

  5. yeah, the album took me a few listens too before i got it, but i think those kinds of albums are always the ones that stick with me. this album has a different sound from everything else out right now, so of course you’re gonna have to get used to it.

    and NATE, yeah, goto my website, please.

  6. Consider this another vote for album of the year. The attention span issue seems to come up a lot during discussions of this masterpiece. My contention is that the fault lies with impatient reviewers, and not with the band itself. But don’t worry; I didn’t care for it much the first time I listened to it either.

  7. Well, as I’m responsible for stirring up this hornets nest I feel I should wade irresponsibly into the debate.

    Bryce, I actually went the other way on this record: initially I thought I was going to really love it, but the more times I tried to listen to it the more I disliked it. It got to the stage where I just couldn’t be bothered sitting through it, it just felt like an enormous effort for little reward.

    The fact the Fiery Furnances are doing this kinda thing should be applauded, but there has to come a point where wilful experimentation crosses the line into overblown nonsense and I think Blueberry Boat sails over that point in a way that Gallowsbird’s Bark didn’t.

  8. yer all barking mad to be listenin’ to a band with a candy-ass farthead lousy name like the “fiery furnaces”. I hate the pretentious sons of puss-filled pimples already!

  9. I totally understand that both the length and the sometimes self-indulgent qualities of this release make it an uneven listening experience. But I’m really with the Pitchfork guys on this one. It’s got brilliance and innovation and freshness like no other release I’ve heard this year.

    And it’s got balls. And I’m so tired of wimpy repetitive regurgitative replicated crap coming from almost every band that actually “sells” records. If I didn’t love this release for the music (and I do) I’d love it for the sheer guts of it.

    It’s time for music to evolve. You aren’t gonna like every facet of the process. Luckily, I happen to love this particular facet.

  10. So far I’ve :

    Loved Gallowsbird Bark. And I’m a cynical mofo who hates almost all the new rock I hear. Which brings me to …

    I saw them live. And Lord, did it suck. Not just ‘didn’t live up to the album’, I mean it was gawdawful. First album was loose, playful, weird and charming. Live, they’re tight and pro … and seem determined to shove the Rock right down your fuckin’ throat. Completely tasteless, up there with the worst 70s rock excess.

    I’ve only heard a few tunes from the new album but thought they really sucked. No charm this time; same repetitive vocal phrasing (one complaint of the first album) falls way flat.

    I’d still like to hear the whole thing but I’m reluctant to shell out the cash after seeing them live …

  11. I loved this album after the third or so listen, but i must have iked it at first, coz then i wouldnt have kept listening! I think its because theres so much going on at once, and everything seems to change and go all ove rthe place and YEAH! Its a fully FUN record. I could put on Chris Michaels, Straight Street, My dog.., Mason City, Bird Brain, anywhere and it would suit the occasion. well, almost. Imagine: Cheep, beep, beepity beep from Chris Michaels at a funeral. But then again, the closing minute is just like a funeral! Well, nuf said. best album of the year, beats Modest Mouse – Good news. and thats truely fantastic. 10/10

  12. I have to agree that it’s so nice that finally someone has the balls to admit that this album is not the “gem” that everyone seems to think it is. I also trusted Pitchfork and while I don’t always think they have the best reviews, something rated so highly and even put in the “one of the best albums of the year” category had to be worth a listen. I spent my $14 and popped it into my cd player expectantly. I dug the first track until it never ended. I even enjoyed a couple other tracks until the vocals started, or the track all of a sudden went off in some crazy direction. Mind you, I like indie music…finding new bands…something that sounds new and different. But, keep in mind that just because a band comes up with a sound like no one else, doesn’t guarantee that it’s good. There could be a reason that no one came up with that particular sound before…because it sucks. Rock operas should be left up to the rock gods. Not a brother and sister who don’t even know how to perform live.

  13. I’m happy to see a dissenting review, I knew they’d be out there. I didn’t expect to like Blueberry Boat. I saw them live just before Gallowsbird came out, and shared that feeling that every time I’d start to feel the groove, the tempo would change, dissonance and toy melodies would intrude, etc. But I’m nuts about Blueberry, loved it the moment I put it on. I was totally not expecting to, just figured I ought to try it. That same first listen, my girlfriend walks in and is like “Wow, what’s this?!” Was a great moment, we both love it. But I can see how some wouldn’t.

  14. I am drawn like a moth to a flame and simply cannot stop listening to this record. It is incredibly musical and theatrical like

    Gilbert & Sullivan (they listened as kids)


    tempo/song changes like Yes


    vocals like Gruppo Sportivo


    instrumentation like no other.

    It does not yield its charms easily, but give it three listens and you may find yourself like me, chained to my CD player with Blueberry Boat in the drawer.

    You’ve been warned.


Leave a Reply