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Fiery Furnaces

A surprisingly large number of people have asked what I thought of the Fiery Furnaces show. It was, I thought, pretty thoroughly mediocre. I like their songs, but there aren't any I really like. Indeed, the songs all kind of sound the same. The live performance is good, but nothing special beyond the music itself. Spending $15 to go see a show with some friends was a perfectly fun way to spend a Friday evening especially if you, say, live a block away from the concert venue. So I suppose that's not much of a take one way or the other, but I don't really have strong feelings about it. Were the band to attract some kind of super-hype and get proclaimed The Next Big Thing, I'd probably get all annoyed and write about how they suck. But they don't actually suck, and they haven't attracted any kind of backlash-worthy hype, so there's no reason to be mean. Interestingly, I can't seem to find anyone with really strong Fiery Furnaces-related feelings, they're perhaps the most apathy-inspiring band around today.

April 10, 2005 | Permalink


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Wow. You should spend some more time in New York, where everyone seems to have extremely strong feelings about the most obscure things imaginable. My boss, for instance, is a huge huge fan of the Fiery Furnaces, after having seen them live--he's rather irritated that I don't love them as much as he does (I think most of their songs come out sounding like a hipster version of "A Quick One While He's Away," and I've never had the patience to listen to an entire album of theirs all the way through).

On the plus side, they drink regularly at one of the bars I drink at regularly (The Magician, which has apparently become a blogger bar--no idea how that turned out), so I fully intend to get drunk one night and harass them.

Posted by: Stu | Apr 10, 2005 12:54:57 AM

One decidedly UNapathetic person went to the (obsessive) trouble to reassemble their Blueberry Boat album so that it tells a chronological story.


Posted by: erklie | Apr 10, 2005 1:07:51 AM

Fiery Furnaces... gack.

it's the self-indulgent, style-shifting, pasticcio effect of prog rock with the lo-fi, lo-brow, dumb-for-fun style of indie rock.

if you're gonna make me pay attention, at least give me something worth paying attention to.

Posted by: cleek | Apr 10, 2005 1:08:24 AM

I think they're fantastic, on record and live. Absolutely brilliant. So there.

Maybe this is just like your occasional anti-environmentalism posts?

Posted by: Sam Heldman | Apr 10, 2005 7:36:38 AM

"Spending $15 to go see a show with some friends was a perfectly fun way to spend a Friday evening especially if you, say, live a block away from the concert venue."

Live music shows are much like movies, pizza, and sex. While great shows are great, mediocre shows are still quite fun.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 10, 2005 8:55:40 AM

IN Madison on Friday night I saw the Decembrists for the first time: they kicked a large degree of ass. They ended the regular set with "Mariner's Revenge Song" and encored with the Tain, which I hadn't heard before, and which succeeded in waxing my nuts to a high polish.

Posted by: Matt_C | Apr 10, 2005 11:12:08 AM

Mmmh, I have to disagree. The Fiery Furnaces are fantastic. I'd also have to disagree about the apathy thing (at least in NY)--people either love the band or hate them. I happen to love them, but honestly, I can see how people would find their music irritating; kind of like how I find Meatloaf and Queen irritating.

Posted by: Justin | Apr 10, 2005 12:18:01 PM

Yes, here in NYC, Fiery Furnaces are most certainly NOT apathy inducing. Quite the opposite, in fact. Or, at least, they were last summer and fall, after Blueberry Boat.

I suppose that something else is now to replace them as new Best Thing Ever(TM). Bloc Party, perhaps?

Posted by: Al | Apr 10, 2005 1:06:31 PM

I know of at least 5 people, including myself, who bought blueberry boat based on the reviews and absolutely hated it. I am a fan of their work with PETA though.

Posted by: Peter | Apr 10, 2005 2:49:35 PM

You're the first person I've ever heard who was at all apathetic about the Fiery Furnaces. It's usually either, "Wow, this is cool" or "Please, for the love of God, turn that off". I am in the former category.

Posted by: thejtrain | Apr 10, 2005 5:34:15 PM

I always like their songs on the radio -- Who's that? Oh, Fiery Furnaces. Yeah, I must get around to buying their album.

But, for some reason I never do.

Sign of old-age?

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) | Apr 10, 2005 6:29:25 PM


You're absolutely right: at the end of the day, Fiery Furnaces are simply nothing special. Their songs are occasionally catchy, but almost as often their preciousness grows painfully annoying. If they spent less time trying to prove how clever they are--not very, it turns out--and more time concentrating on nice melodies (which they do know how to write) and interesting textures (which they are quite skilled at composing) they'd both a) be a much better band, and b) stand a far more substantial chance at achieving Next Big Thing status.

Unlike you, I have friends who swear by the band. It mystifies me, and frankly, I'm a little bit insulted that they told me, before I'd ever listed to the FFs, that they were my kind of band. What kind of twee, mediocre, wannabe trend-follower do they take me for?

Posted by: marcj | Apr 10, 2005 9:53:49 PM


No one I know of has been apathetic about the Fiery Furnaces. The Pitchfork - etc. music snob vanguard definitely blew many loads over them. I saw them open for The Shins and *hated* them. I thought they were the most obnoxious awful band ever. Certainly not at all what i wanted to hear before The Shins. I immediately dubbed them the "Awful Furnaces" and continue to refer to them as that. Ack Ugh!!!

Posted by: res | Apr 11, 2005 4:18:09 AM

Yeah, Pitchfork . . . I definitely read their reviews with skeptiscism. They proclaimed the Wrens as one of the greatest indie bands ever - barf!

I agree with marcj. With the Fiery Furnaces, intrigue quickly turns into annoying cachopony.

Ah, now on the other hand, The Shins . . . *eyes fluttering* . . . .

Posted by: jpsagen | Apr 12, 2005 4:53:32 PM

Mr. Matthew Yglesias,

Just read your essay, “Failure Buster”, at the American Prospect page. I fault your “be careful what you ask for” view as one that ignores the disenfranchisement of the American voter. Consider the welfare that has been accomplished in Europe in the last thirty years. Six week paid vacations, free college, healthcare, all occurring in countries with much smaller means than ours. At the same time in this country minimum wage decreased, college is much more difficult, healthcare is reduced, and mostly all during times of great prosperity.

Stephen Hill in his book “Fixing Elections” places the blame on our eighteenth century election system. It has been overwhelmed by the rush of technology and no longer functions. This is why so many don't bother to vote. Our election system forces a two party system. Consider


If candidate L wants to get more votes he can move to the right. The voters to his left won't like it but they are trapped! Third party alternatives are ineffective. The candidates improve their position my moving to the center. This is why the candidates are so close together in elections today.

It seems to me that the fate of the filibuster is of less a concern than the decline of voter representation. I foresee a permanent republican government.

Albert J. Hoch Jr.

Posted by: Albert Hoch | Apr 13, 2005 4:38:43 AM

Well, while trying to avoid redundancy, I think the fiery furnaces are excellent. I think blueberry boat goes for a certain effect, which I could see how it would be annoying (though I really love the album...probably my favorite of '04). That said, I don't think that the, ahem, "style shitting" blueberry boat is neccesarily the template for all their songs, or in any way sums them up as a band.

Posted by: Ark | Apr 16, 2005 1:43:17 AM

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