Blueberry Boat – The Fiery Furnaces

Blueberry Boat

The Fiery Furnaces

2004

Rough Trade

Time to hoist up your freak flags and take a journey with this weird, little album.  Blueberry Boat is the second record from the brother and sister team of Matt and Eleanor Friedberger, The Fiery Furnaces.  Let me tell you, it’s one challenging record to listen to.  At the time of its release, Blueberry Boat was definitely polarizing; internet hipster central Pitchfork ranked it as a 9.6 out of ten (hint: it’s not that great), meanwhile Dusted Magazine said “most of these tracks are pop songs without hooks or personality” (hint: it’s not that bad).  It’s certainly weird, and it’s certainly self-indulgent, but it’s an interesting, difficult album with some really cool nuggets of songs on it.  

The best way to describe the music of Blueberry Boat is progressive  meets indie pop.  Or rather, it’s as if prog lured indie away from her drunk friends at a seedy bar to charm its way into her panties.  Five of the songs are over seven minutes; most of the songs feature tempo changes, time signature changes, and key changes; computer and digital manipulation is used heavily; and there are tons of instruments used throughout.  For all these reasons, Nick would love it and Michael would have a conniption listening to it.  Take the opening number, “Quay Cur,” for example.  It’s a ten minute song which features Matthew’s catchy keyboard skills as well as both his and Eleanor’s gymnastic vocals (“A looby, a lordant, a lagerhead, lozel/ a lungio lathback made me a proposal”).  The ominous opening section gives way to a turbulent rock section and then to a softer acoustic one.  It’s a make-or-break type of song — if you can sit through all ten minutes without wanting to curb stomp your headphones, Blueberry Boat may be an album you’ll like.

Other highlights on this disc feature other prog/indie treats.  For instance, the biblical-referencing “Straight Street”  is the musical equivalent of a slapstick comedy.  The music, after a panicked opening, quickly devolves into a romping piano number best suited for the background of a Marx Brothers’ scene.  With lyrics like “They had a dirty Beanie Baby, so for good luck I bought her,” the listener can try to get ready for the epic chorus (with a completely shifted music part) “So, I walked up the lane of the street they called ‘Straight, cursing myself/ ‘Cause I got there too late,” which, music and all, feels like a punchline.  Then you have “Chris Michaels” and “Blueberry Boat” — both songs are epic lengths and feature more musical ideas than most other bands’ whole discographies (I’m looking at you, Metallica).

Blueberry Boat is challenging in the exact opposite way that St. Anger is.

However, even if you fall on the side of being positive about this album, there’s still some things that hold it back.  Much like a young kid playing tee ball in his front yard, who’s tricked into a stranger’s mini van, complete with tinted windows, cassette deck, and ugly maroon-colored carpeting, the listener to this album can be somewhat disoriented.  Just when the songs give you something to grasp onto, the music changes with no warnings.  “1917” features almost nothing but these twists and turns.  Another impairing feature of Blueberry Boat is the penchant of the Friedbergers to add sounds that only tangentially have anything to do with the songs: whether it’s the guitar wankery during “Paw Paw Tree”  or any of the synth sounds in the closing “Wolf Notes,” the instrumentation can sometimes be disquieting, if not outright cacophonous.  Now, neither of these two peculiarities of Blueberry Boat are negative — in fact, I love all of the out-of-nowhere turns and the off-putting noises.  No, it’s those combined with the one hour and sixteen minute freaking’ runtime that hold the album back.  In the end, even if you’re into the psychedelic tendencies of Blueberry Boat, it’s just too strenuous a record to enjoy thoroughly.

Even with its challenges though, this release is totally worth checking out.  It is, no doubt, challenging and can take a lot to sit through.  The hedonistic stylings of Matt and Eleanor can prove to be too much sometimes, but the self-indulgence can bring up plenty of musical ideas.  Is it unlistenable?  That’s entirely up to you and whether or not you’re on board with Blueberry Boat.

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One Response to “Blueberry Boat – The Fiery Furnaces”

  1. This is a rip off of Led Zeppelin IV.

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