The Fiery Furnaces – Gallowsbird's Bark
Rough Trade, 2003
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2010
Man, this was such a huge record my senior year of high school, just not for me. I was just making my transition from punk to indie rock and this was on the docket. A big, highly acclaimed, apparently innovative indie rock record...that I thought was half awesome and half a couple of rich white kids messing around. And, seven years later, that's what it sounds like, but when taking the records the Fiery Furnaces have released in that time, well, this sounds refreshing. They seem to have dove head first into being weird for weirdness' sake and lost all the heart and joy that's on display on this album. Tunes like the carnivalesque opener “South is Only a Home” and the slow-burn lilt of “Up in the North” caught me, but the middle part of the album always feels way too long and way too unfocused. The siblings Friedberger most certainly know how to pen terrific pop songs, but it often feels like they're overloading their songs with too many ideas, weird or otherwise. Fortunately, the trio of songs that close the album--“Tropical Ice-Land,” “Rub Alcohol Blues,” and the woozy blues of “We Got Back the Plague”--are a masterful mini-suite. In the scheme of the Fiery Furnaces, this is still one of their best records. I never quite made sense of Blueberry Boat, and the EP that followed that album was pretty much their pop-peak for me. However, I didn't hate their grandma album, Rehearsing my Choir, as much as everyone else because it was at least endearing, but every album from 2005 on has had about 2 or 3 great songs and a mess of tangled weirdo blah. However, I say all this without having given a listen to their latest, I'm Going Away, so maybe all of this is wrong.
Not the album version, but love the video for Tropical Iceland"