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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