REVIEW: The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away
Zach Hart Monday, July 20, 2009
I guess the critics finally won. Over the last seven years, The Fiery Furnaces have brilliantly evolved through their six studio albums. They started off as a southern twang rock band and mastered the electro sound, proving that “weird” can be high art. To give some context to the comments that follow, The Fiery Furnaces are my favorite contemporary band. While Blueberry Boat is my favorite album, I found Rehearsing My Choir to be one of the greatest musical accomplishments of the decade…while other music journalists labeled it unjustly as unfocused and bizarre. The great thing about the Furnaces is that when the critics panned them, they went even further into the bizarre, which lead to astonishing results. Their last album, Widow City was the perfect fusion of every sound they had created previously and proved that they were in complete control of their songwriting. Their newest offering, I’m Going Away, while better than most stuff out there, marks a sad day for me as a Furnaces fan.
While there are nice moments on I’m Going Away, the album is ultimately bland - fat free vanilla ice cream with no toppings. “Drive To Dallas” feels like a long drive, but without a clear destination, as the track really goes nowhere. “Take Me Round Again” feels like a band trying to mimic the sound of the Furnaces, but without any of the tact that they have shown on previous albums. For those who are on the fence about this album, I suggest giving Gallowsbird’s Bark a spin, where one can see what a successful Furnaces album sounds like when the synths are absent. Their debut album already proves what I’m Going Away tries to say, that the band can do a thoughtful, but pulled back, normal album.
Now, one must understand that, like a caring parent, I’m extremely critical of The Fiery Furnaces. Since their debut, I’ve given each of their albums over 8.0 and placed Blueberry Boat, Rehearsing My Choir, and Widow City as my albums of the year (2004, 2005, 2007)…that’s a pretty good run. While I’m disappointed in the overall feel of the album, there are some tracks that make me feel like I have my favorite band back. “The End Is Near” is a great shift for the Furnaces, delivering a nice little song that is filled to the brink with emotion. The title track “I’m Going Away” launches the album perfectly, with a gritty guitar and saloon piano riff that gets the head nodding and toe tapping. The Furnaces are at their best on this album with the track, “Even In The Rain” which feels like perfect B-side to an “Evergreen” 7 inch. The song is a little off it’s rail, but comes together nicely with the chorus.
That’s the thing about the Furnaces…they’ve never been on the same path as other bands. They do their own thing and if the listener dedicates enough time and brainpower to raise themselves to the bands level, they are greatly rewarded. After spinning “I’m Going Away,” I got it immediately…it’s a nice album full of beautiful arrangements and nice ballads, highlighting a new stripped down sound. I bought the album on vinyl and suggest everyone does the same, but this is definitely their weakest album to date.…which makes me sad. On the upside, I think this album will allow for a lot of people to “get into” the band…and the more people who fall in love with the unmatched Fiery Furnaces…the happier I am in the long run.