(10.2007, Thrill Jockey)
The only Furnaces record I haven't heard is the grandma one (Rehearsing My Choir) and according to the record, I am all the better off for it. I was actually really interested in the album, even with the bad reviews, but just never got around to it. I know some people who won't listen to The Fiery Furnaces anymore just because of it. The idea never bothered me much because I was never really into their first two records. In truth, I just started warming up to the Friedbergers on last year's Bitter Tea, a wonderfully schizophrenic pop maze with heavy electronic flourishes. For all their previous chameleonisms, Widow City is a less than jarring progression from Bitter Tea. The Furnaces have retained the standard mega bizarre lyrical monotone of Eleanor Friedberger and mid-song musical U turns ala Matthew Friedberger. The real difference here can be characterized by the inspiring air guitar provided by a drunken homeless man in attendance of this summer's Twilight Concert Series where the Furnaces played along side Yo La Tengo. First of all, for anyone who saw him, that guy had some genuine rock star moves. Second, he was absolutely right to bust out the old invisible guitar because the Furnaces have turned up the rock n' roll on Widow City to ten. With busty riffage on tracks like "Navy Nurse" and "Clear Signal From Cairo," The Fiery Furnaces have laid down some serious head bobbing tunes. Widow City is the quintessential Fiery Furnaces release – the Friedbergers have cut down the fat that has accompanied all their previous releases and produced an album of concise Willy Wonka pop: loaded with sugar and visiting the most oddly enchanting rooms of candy production ever imaged…except, like, a musical version of that. For all the skeptics, Widow City is the album that will make it ok for you like The Fiery Furnaces again.
The Fiery Furnaces - "Japanese Sleepers"