Those who expect the Fiery Furnaces to refine their classic-rock influences on their feverish (not to mention fast) follow-up to last year's rock 'n' rollicking debut Gallowsbird's Bark should shift their points of reference. This time around, the Brooklyn-based band substitute their take on the succinct Who sound circa "Substitute" for sprawling structures similar to "A Quick One, While He's Away," dropping their interpretation of straight-ahead Velvet Underground poses like "I'm Waiting for the Man" for a loquacious perplexity akin to "The Murder Mystery." Three of the Fiery Furnaces' first four songs swell way past the eight-minute mark and the whole album weighs in at a whalish 76 minutes.
Matt and Eleanor Friedberger downplay their sibling rivalry, but the brother and sister duo are at play for real, dressing up as pirates to man the Moogs and drum machines for the seasick lurch of the title track. They act as a crime-solving duo for the bewildering nine minutes of "Inspector Blancheflower," which swerves off into a conversational he said/she said spat, never once looking back at the script. The Friedbergers' roles are constantly in flux. Growing bored with chord changes, characters, choruses, and songs sung the same way for soooo long, they smoosh half-baked bits together with bubble gum, making flawed operettas of Crayola-doodled glossolalia, referencing Dexedrine, bike spokes, tacos, TCBY, Amstel Light, Sir Edward Pepsi, and My First Tambourine along the way.
Most bands save suites and high concepts until at least the fourth album, but musically, the Fiery Furnaces have already matured beyond a sophomore slump. Which means they can afford to be more immature and silly, playing against expectations. Blueberry Boat may drift way off course, but it's a sea cruise. Ooooweeee, baby.
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