The Fiery Furnaces - EP

Mike Mantin 24/01/2005

Rating: 4/5

Sound the alarm bells, it's an indie b-sides album, a phrase which usually translates as 'druggy castoffs and not-good-enough-to-be-album tracks cobbled together for a bit more cash'. Thankfully, this isn't the case with this incorrectly-titled (it's 10 songs and 41 minutes long, but costs a fiver) collection from NYC's King and Queen of Kook, Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger. What we have here are b-sides from their first album, a fantastically jazzy single version of Tropical Ice-Land and their 2004 stop-gap single. Naturally, it's all over the place, with songs ranging from electro nursery rhymes (Single Again), straight-up piano pop (Evergreen) and alliteration-heavy jams (Cousin Chris, Sullivan's Social Slub). But it's all tied together with their skewed sense of melody and experimental instrumentation.

EP finds the Furnaces at their poppiest: there's none of Blueberry Boat's eight-minute aural workouts, only Matthew's trademark wah-wah guitar and some crossover-friendly sharp tunes. Their typical indecipherable wordplay is at times replaced with something new. Single Again, for example, is surprisingly blunt about domestic violence, while Sing For Me is simply a sweet lullaby featuring a fantastic vocal performance from Matthew. Bizarrely, the EP is more coherent than either of the Furnaces' two albums, the shortcomings of which prevented some from realising what a fine band they really are. Newcomers should start their collection right here, and this should tide the converted over until their next album, which is apparently a collection of duets between Eleanor and her grandmother. Ooh err.