The Fiery Furnaces – I’m Going Away

The Fiery Furnaces – I’m Going Away (Thrill Jockey)

The Fiery Furnaces are back with their addiction to fitting as many riffs into one song as is humanly possible. Ostensibly they follow the classic formula of verse – chorus – verse – chorus. It’s just that with the Furnaces it tends to be verse a – chorus a – verse b – chorus c – verse a – chorus d. This hyperactive tendency finds full effect during their live performances and the results are sometimes headache inducing. But what can occasionally feel bewildering can, more frequently, beguile. I mean, a lot of the riffs are bloody good riffs. And, on Rehearsing My Choir, they even managed to combine the hook-fest with a rather sweet story (in both senses of the word) sung by their grandmother. Nothing has come close to Rehearsing My Choir (though fans most would disagree) precisely because the presence of their grandmother took the edge off their cleverness and gave them a more human feel. Too frequently the lyrics tend to push the listener away, detailing as they do the bizarre and the fantastic. Whilst I’m Going Away doesn’t match Rehearsing My Choir either, it is still a damn good album and something of a return to form following the slightly disappointing Widow City.

More focussed, and more human in the lyrics department, I’m Going Away opens with the title track, a brief rock stomp with Beefheartian flourishes. It’s also the most aggressively ‘rock’ track on the album. Drive to Dallas, which follows, is piano led, the calm mood only interrupted by a lacerating guitar solo. The End is Near follows and is a gentle song with, unusually, no attempt made to hobble it. Charmaine Champagne ups the ante with a rollicking tale of the titular Charmaine who gets up to no good at Johnny Romero’s. As the album progresses we also: find out about Ray Bouvier; travel to Manchester, a bazaar in Ouazarate and Lake Geneva; encounter a song who’s lyrics seem to be made up of song titles from the turn of the previous century (album closer and great track Take Me Round Again). And yes, there are dizzying changes of tone and pace that occur within a few of the songs, but most of the album is played relatively ‘straight’. On Lost At Sea we even get straightforward, emotionally mature, lyrics detailing the end of a relationship.

As with most of The Fiery Furnaces albums it takes a bit of listening to: at first it sounds something of a mess before the hooks begin to take full effect. And from that moment on it’s a hugely enjoyable ride, spiky and angular in the main but also surprisingly gentle and contemplative too.

Words: Chris Dawson