Fiery Furnaces - Gallowsbird's Bark
It sounds like badly-played electric folk music. The key instruments in the mix appear to be an irritatingly tinkly piano and a banjo. What percussion there is more than not skiffed and very light touch to the extent that sometimes it might as well not be there at all. In fact, on several tracks percussion is dispensed with altogether. In several songs, they go deliberately flat to provide a distinctive edge to the music with the result is that it sounds like the band has lost the plot and are playing out of key. Now while this may be intended to be innovative and even hick-style-quaint on one track, when it happens on half a dozen tracks, you begin to wonder about the whole thing. And there are a hell of a lot of tracks squeezed onto this album.
Whether the Friedberger siblings, the force behind the Fiery Furnaces, are classy musicians or utter clowns is something I cannot tell. What I do know is that the lyrics veer towards the lame and the meaningless far too often for their own good. The reference to the Millennium Dome (London's premier white elephant) and the tambourine which rattled two thousand times seem to exist solely to provide a structure for a rhyme rather than convey an image with any value to it. And, when it comes to metaphors, nobody ever found paying a judge's fine the hardest thing they ever had to do in their life unless they lead a ridiculously sheltered and privileged existence. And finally:
"Down in the dumps/Me and the seagulls we were looking for lumps"
Means exactly what? "Humps", "bumps", "chumps" even "mumps" will all do as rhymes and will all not do as imagery. Sometimes listening to this sort of thing makes me question why I even bother writing reviews. After all, why should I make a serious attempt to write something constructive about an album when the perpetrators of said album can't even be bothered to write decent lyrics rather than string together what seem to be randomly chosen words simply to complete a rhyme? This is the sort of nonsense you expect from the Black Eyed Peas or Soulja Boy.
So, what are we left with? Well, there is so little to hold onto with this album it is difficult to identify where to start. Ultimately, I just gave up. Life is too short to be wasted playing any album over and over again just in case there is some Road-to-Damascus moment, a revelation that requires the listener to subject himself to repeated exposure before its significance becomes clear. This is too clever to be accidentally crap but too crap to be deliberately clever. Seems to me that the Fiery Furnaces set out to make something sufficiently off-the-wall to make people sit up and take notice. I certainly sat up and took notice, but I doubt that was in the way they intended. In that regard, this album utterly failed to achieve that goal.
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