Plumbiferous Media

I’m Going Away - The Fiery Furnaces

Jul 26th 2009
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I'm Going Away - The Fiery FurnacesThe Fiery Furnaces
I'm Going Away
Score: 8

The Fiery Fur­naces, now in its ninth year, is com­prised of sib­lings Matthew and Eleanor Fried­berg­er. The band is most well known for its high lev­el of exper­i­men­ta­tion and the vari­ety which this forces into their albums. How­ev­er, on their newest album, I’m Going Away, as well as in much of their ear­li­er work, this forced exper­i­men­ta­tion in all parts of the music pre­vents it from being cohe­sive or even tru­ly inter­est­ing, leav­ing instead what is best referred to as a mess.

The name of the game with I’m Going Away is rep­e­ti­tion, uni­son, and dis­tor­tion. This is not to say that there aren’t any good moments on the album - we found one. Even with the rep­e­ti­tion in the bass line, “Star­ing at the Steeple” remains a few steps ahead of any oth­er track on the album, sim­ply because the bass line is inter­est­ing enough to with­stand the rep­e­ti­tion, and the oth­er parts fit per­fect­ly into the back­bone it creates.

That said, prob­lems with I’m Going Away start with the very first track, and con­tin­ue through the album. “I’m Going Away” suf­fers great­ly from its incred­i­bly fran­tic nature, dis­tort­ed bass line, and extreme lev­els of rep­e­ti­tion. Prob­lems with rep­e­ti­tion remain through “Char­maine Cham­pagne” and “Even in the Rain.” “Ray Bou­vi­er” lets the gui­tar run ram­pant with a frag­ment­ed, unfit­ting gui­tar solo, and “Lost at Sea” con­tains a drum roll start­ing around the 3:40 mark that begins the decay of the entire track, last­ing through the remain­ing minute and thir­ty sec­onds. That track is fol­lowed by “Cups and Punch­es,” which alter­nates between a relaxed and a hyper­ac­tive sec­tion that, through­out the track, remain com­plete­ly at odds with one another.

The vocals on I’m Going Away are just as exper­i­men­tal as the rest of the album. In this case, that means they are sharp, clash­ing, and gen­er­al­ly ill-advised and irri­tat­ing, and it cer­tain­ly does­n’t help that “I’m Going Away,” the worst vocal offend­er, opens the album. Matthew Fried­berg­er’s vocals are enthu­si­as­tic, but they’re enthu­si­as­tic in an overzeal­ous way which would be tol­er­a­ble over a short peri­od of time but which, over an entire album or even an entire track, becomes unbear­able. Though Fried­berg­er is obvi­ous­ly try­ing to cre­ate his own style of vocals alto­geth­er, he comes off more as an adher­ent of clas­sic rock who’s failed to real­ize what made those singers so inter­est­ing. Eleanor Fried­berg­er is slight­ly bet­ter - except for the sud­den, dis­ori­ent­ing increas­es in lyri­cal tem­po every time she slips out of uni­son with the instru­men­tals. But even her best moments (which share much of her broth­er’s overea­ger­ness) can’t come even close to notably improv­ing I’m Going Away.

The Fiery Fur­naces has nev­er been par­tic­u­lar­ly strong when it comes to lyrics, and I’m Going Away is no dif­fer­ent from the norm. At best, the lyrics are child­ish­ly sim­ple and at worst painful­ly inane. We can’t help think­ing that, when Eleanor Fried­berg­er is singing such unpo­et­ic pieces as “Who cut the cake with­out any warn­ing / Who cut the cake with my spe­cial knife / Into tiny lit­tle pieces for every fel­la’s wife?” that per­haps The Fiery Fur­naces would be bet­ter off as an instru­men­tal band - which would not only pre­vent lyrics of this cal­iber from ever show­ing up again, but might lessen the incred­i­ble tedi­um of hear­ing the same line repeat­ed­ly for most of a track (see “Even in the Rain”).

The Fiery Fur­naces employ a num­ber of tech­niques on I’m Going Away. Among these are rep­e­ti­tion to (and well past) the point of inani­ty, back­ing vocals that add noth­ing to the album, unnec­es­sary uni­son, and pal­try lyrics. In the end, I’m Going Away is not left with much in the way of suc­cess­ful ele­ments, save the lone sev­enth track. Its only real advan­tage over many oth­er albums is that the band (near­ly always) stays marked­ly in tune, although this is more than com­pro­mised by the mis­aligned attempts at exper­i­men­ta­tion. Through all twelve tracks, The Fiery Fur­naces repeat­ed­ly push­es the lis­ten­er to the point where he or she hopes the band real­ly was sin­cere when nam­ing the album.

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