Fiery Furnaces

Widow City (Thrill Jockey)

Matthew Friedberger, the songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and chops-abuser of New York sibling duo Fiery Furnaces, recently revealed to the Village Voice that he writes four to eight songs a week. The admission brings to question whether that volume of output can be considered any good.

Four years on from the ramshackle pleasures of their debut, Gallowsbird's Bark, Fiery Furnaces have lost the plot entirely. Their deconstruction is willful, but bricolage, thrift-store archaeology, and exquisite-corpse strategies aside (the band cites '70s JC Penney catalogues, Paul McCartney, and ouija boards for inspiration this go-round), even Friedberger and his sister/singer Eleanor seem bored by the process. Unfortunately, the apathy settles in mid-recording. Alliteration, quirky map coordinates, and proper nouns get shouted out. Thrash and hard-rock sections of "Clear Signal from Cairo" and "Navy Nurse" are plunked in just to prove they could play like that, not that they will.

On "The Philadelphia Grand Jury," both the vocal line and its attendant main riff show how effortlessly pop hooks come to the Friedbergers, yet doddering instrumental digressions (on "totally vintage" Chamberlin M1 and Mellotron M400) undercut all listening momentum. The band garners such critical hosannas as "literate" rockers — yet Widow City offers none of the calm of reading a novel, but all of its verbiage; it has all of the noise of rock, but scant amounts of its urgent vitality. Perhaps the Fiery Furnaces will just record an audio book next.

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