[Rough Trade/Sanctuary; 2005]
Okay, I'm done being a nice guy about this: If you don't like Blueberry Boat, I don't like you. It's no longer a matter of taste, other than the fact that I have good taste, whereas you, Fiery Furnaces-hater, do not. Don't have time to take in the full sweeping grandeur of Blueberry Boat's 80 minutes? I have no respect for your calendar priorities. To those who find their multiple-movement symphonies and keyboard-fetish arrangements overcooked, I feel only loathing, utter disdain, and approximately one tablespoon of pity! And for the few of you that cannot handle the frenetic uber-medley that is a Fiery Furnaces live set, I want to make provocative documentary films about your inept and offensive taste and take them on the festival circuit.
But if my depraved fanboy rants and threats don't convince you, this here spartanly-titled EP just might. Dare you infidels bear witness as this collection of the Furnaces' assorted table scraps easily outshines most bands' main course? Not content to merely isolate the most accessible tune from their long players and ship a CD-R out to campus hundred-watts, Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger are prolific vinyl-pressers, releasing new or reinterpreted material betwixt and in conjunction with their albums. EP does the Soulseek virtual crate-digging for Furnaces devotees, collecting most of these odds and sods while wisely catching amnesia on their less-collectible Clash and Fall covers.
I know of some misguided souls who find that the accoutrements of Blueberry Boat's three-ring concept album circus overwhelm any songcraft talents the siblings Friedberger originally exhibited on Gallowsbird's Bark, and for these people my hatred burns only slightly less bright. Nevertheless, EP starts off with a trilogy of tunes that should lay this ridiculous claim to rest, restoring their most recent single to its original director's cut. Running a little over 10 minutes, the suite simultaneously reminds the doubters of the Furnaces' considerable pop abilities, while not compromising on the Casio blitzes or thematic density of more recent work.
If "Single Again", in a slightly expanded take, remains a bit cold in with its jump-rope chant refrain and stiff drums, reinstated bridge "Here Comes the Summer", is the perfect thaw, showcasing the duo's deft hand with electronic rhythms, guitar pedals, and swooning melodies. "Summer" seasonally segues into "Evergreen", the band's sweetest ballad to date, and the first that comes close to making the Carpenters comparisons more than just commentary on the Friedberger's slightly creepy sibling dynamics.
There's enough to digest in that opening salvo to fulfill the effort's modest title, but there's still a half-hour smattering of B-sides and remakes for dessert. A few ("Duffer St. George", "Smelling Cigarettes") swerve towards the ADD collage style of Blueberry Boat's longer tracks, telling similarly intricate stories of infidelity, drinking, and gallivanting around London. Matthew's imaginary Cockney accent takes the lead more often than on the full-lengths, whether on the tongue-twisting sea shanty of "Cousin Chris" or the Bowie piano-rock of "Sing for Me".
Meanwhile, the complete reconstruction of "Tropical Ice-land" featured here is a taste of the band's Dylan-like compulsion to perennially revise the back catalog, expanding the sing-songy original in every direction, right down to a wonderfully gratuitous backwards-vocal verse. In the end, it's perhaps this quality of perpetual evolution, best exemplified by their delirious live shows, that has me drawing Fiery Furnaces logos on my All-Stars-- few other bands of the indie world seem to have such mercurial aspirations.
EP then comes off like a quick appendix to the band's work so far, concentrating their strengths in parts while elsewhere lovingly dumping the stray ideas that may not fit into their next conceptual flight. That it still manages to skirt the hazards of being a for-fan's-only release only deepens my stalker-love, not to mention the accompanying abhorrence for all who don't see the light. Honestly, how do you people wake up in the morning; you pathetic, mouth-breathing [the remaining 1,000 words of diatribe deleted by Pitchfork editors, who cordially apologize to the readership for Mr. Mitchum's unfortunate outburst -Ed.]
-Rob Mitchum, January 12, 2005
1. Single Again
2. Here Comes The Summer
4. Sing For Me
5. Tropical Iceland
6. Duffer St. George
7. Selling Cigarettes
8. Cousin Chris
9. Sweet Spots
10. Sullivan Social Club