FIERY FURNACES > Widow City

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Able to merit a great deal of respect for their flat refusal to submit to pop templates, brother-and-sister pairing The Fiery Furnaces have always been adept at making a jarring presence through their turbulent atmospherics and elaborate, deconstructed brand of rock. As expected, their fifth LP Widow City doesn’t stray far from their previous efforts, opting to expose their songs’ gangly mechanics with meticulous detail.Label: THRILL JOCKEY
[RATING: 2 ]

Able to merit a great deal of respect for their flat refusal to submit to pop templates, brother-and-sister pairing The Fiery Furnaces have always been adept at making a jarring presence through their turbulent atmospherics and elaborate, deconstructed brand of rock. As expected, their fifth LP Widow City doesn’t stray far from their previous efforts, opting to expose their songs’ gangly mechanics with meticulous detail. But, ultimately, it takes one patient listener to truly appreciate the fractured psych-rock of this Brooklyn duo.

Opener “The Philadelphia Grand Jury,” which fares at more than seven minutes, plays as if one of their pet rock songs was dissected and splayed with its mangled remains in disquietingly sequential order. For the Furnaces, self-awareness doesn’t seem to come hard, as they know the insides of every hook and drum loop; their natural instincts tend toward the vivisectionist, willing to either kill their young or, at the very least, dismantle them from their pop pedestal.

Still, clocking in at just less than an hour that sprawls 16 tracks, this album shows a surprising lack of constraint and overstays its welcome less than midway through. The case was much the same with recent tourmates Deerhoof, whose 2005 album The Runners Four, although generally well-received, was a meandering, attack-from-all-sides overload that alienated its listeners even while dragging them in. Tracks on Widow City like “Duplexes of the Dead” and the speak-sing funk of “Automatic Husband” still feel largely intact, but one of the album’s most traditional songs, “Ex-Guru,” is sadly cut short and dominated by the maddening mesh of spastic drums and lyric repetition on its follow-up, “Clear Signal from Cairo.”

Though any willing critic should be reluctant to filet the Furnaces as detached and inaccessible-lead vocalist Eleanor Friedberger’s delivery hardly ever seems contrived, but strains emotional on even the most distant songs-one can’t help but wonder how much more palatable Widow City may have been were its songs crafted in some digestible form.


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