The Fiery Furnaces: Remember

The Fiery Furnaces: Remember (Thrill Jockey)

The Fiery Furnaces, an oft-difficult sibling duo, has released an album or two every year for the past five years. Each release is seen as a departure from the last — a new direction and a new set of challenges to overcome.

From the epic jigsaw of Blueberry Boat in 2004 to the classic-rock groove of Widow City in 2007, the manic keys and voice that emanate from Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger have not so much redefined themselves as they have evolved.

So what happens when the pair releases a live album compiling music recorded over a few years? Remember is the fifty-plus-track monstrosity that emerged from the Friedbergers’ penchant for playing songs differently show to show.

The album is packed with music taken from a dizzying number of performances, and as expected, this is no straightforward affair. The Fiery Furnaces has cut and sown these songs into brand new compositions fit for head shaking and floor hopping.

It’s one of the most authentic-feeling live albums to come out in years. A perfectly mixed and mastered recording is abandoned here for an “in the corner, jacket in hand” experience that seeing live music really is.

Songs interrupt others and are cut up, commenting on the restless and shifting focus of the Furnaces’ live sets. The crowd makes cameos but never invades the music or the energy, like so many albums with mics pointed at the crowd for singalongs (e.g. Colin Meloy).

Eleanor sounds front and center and better than ever, whereas Matthew is off to the left, over by the bar, shouting along with the band while ordering a pint.

It has that lived-in feel, the good-times-now-past nostalgia that comes with such memories of favorite shows and classic sets. The band offers reprises of several songs, usually only two or three tracks later, and they are so different that they are almost unrecognizable from the previous version.

Some casual listeners will have to keep looking at the stereo to know when a new song is playing, as it all sounds like one long ever-changing montage. The only thing lacking from this live album is any kind of lull, the quiet between songs where tunings and banter take place.

With so much material to pull from, The Fiery Furnaces simply does not have time for silence.

– Charlie Swanson

The Fiery Furnaces:
Thrill Jockey Records:

1 thought on “The Fiery Furnaces: Remember”

Leave a Comment