The Fiery Furnaces:
Chief Inspector Blancheflower (2004)
Available on the album Blueberry Boat
…and I said ‘Listen to you!
I know what you’re trying to do.’
‘And what whould that be?’
‘Mess with Michael’s head as some kind of revenge back at me.’
–So I drove up to Springfield in my wife’s new car
And went and had a drink at my buddy’s old bar.
One of the best recent discoveries that I’ve made in my endless indie music explorations has been The Fiery Furnaces. In early October last year, I had a piano student (who happened to also be a physics professor at McGill) who made me copies of The New Pornographers’ Twin Cinema and Blueberry Boat. Admittedly I’ve come to like Neko Case’s solo music much better than The New Pornographers (her music is much closer to the type of melancholic folk that I’m usually drawn towards) and, until two months ago, I had never even listened to The Fiery Furnaces.
I typically spend a lot of time reading music criticism, particularly popular and indie music criticism, searching for new sounds to titillate my eardrums and constantly twitching musical memory. When I got both albums I had already read a fair share of glowing reviews for Twin Cinema and greedily played as soon as I got home. On my first listen I was immediately turned off by what I considered to be The New Pornographer’s flagrant popism and – further annoyed by the music’s lack of dynamic range – I turned the album off after six tracks. After that I felt a hesitant towards listening to Blueberry Boat but decided to read about the album some first. After reading one poor Rolling Stone review and looking at the really long track lengths I decided I wouldn’t have the patience to listen to another new album that night and put it on my shelf for what looked like an indefinite stay.
Earlier this summer I discovered Pitchfork Media’s website and after reading an awestruck review of Kid A I started prowling through the reviews for every band I could possibly think of. At some point I ran across Chris Dahlen’s review of Blueberry Boat and immediated jumped off my bed to throw it on the old discman. One weekend and half a dozen listens later I was hooked.
In the last month I’ve also discovered the two more recent Fiery Furnaces albums Rehearsing My Choir and Bitter Tea. I’ve fallen in love with the bewildering critical bombshell that is Rehearsing My Choir (although cheers to Jerry for his good taste on this one). Personally, I’ve also been surprised at how better received the much more difficult Bitter Tea album has been in comparison. In my opinion, the main criticisms that Rehearsing My Choir has little melody and next to nothing to hold onto are complete crap since the album is chock full catchy melodic fragments and a collection of almost Wagnerian motivic and harmonic themes.
“Chief Inspector Blanchflower” is possibly my favorite long track on Blueberry Boat (which is still my favorite album by The Fiery Furnaces). I’ve never particularly cared for The Who’s mini-rock operas but in my opinion, in songs like this and others of their quickly developing quirky esthetic, The Fiery Furnaces have found a little chunk of hidden gold. It reminds me of what Pierre Boulez says about supporting musical analyses, that it doesn’t matter if you get at the techniques the original person used what matters is if you get at something that is valuable to you.
…Okay, I promise I’ll get back to posting contemporary art music next week.