The Fiery Furnaces
Rehearsing My Choir

Rough Trade
Reviewed by: Mike Powell
Reviewed on: 2005-10-28

Posted 10/28/2005 - 07:46:10 AM by KlausFraktal:
 Popist elitism! This is a subversive masterpiece!
Posted 10/28/2005 - 07:53:44 AM by florenz6:
 Yes, Klaus, subversive and very, very interesting! "A product of indulgence"????!! Please, listen again, Mr. Powell!
Posted 10/28/2005 - 08:06:24 AM by KlausFraktal:
 Also, I don't think last track is about her husband. The husband narrative seems to end with Seven Silver Curses when she 'awakens from a bad dream' and realizes that he's been faithful. The last third or so of the album is about an earlier love (not Tom Kitzos, but another she won't name) and how she observed his life from the choir director's seat. And when she's at his funeral, she passes by her mother, father, sister, and husband's graves and looks over to see the sun setting and contemplates death. It's a harrowing, lonely moment, one that could have been schmaltzy and delusional bit of Hollywood phoniness, but the Furnaces opt for an old woman's alienation and defeatism. Has this ever been the subject of song? Especially in the youth-worshipping arena of pop. It seems to me the only problem with this album is that people aren't willing to give it enough attention and that they're not willing to open up emotionally to a frontperson unless he/she is cool, sexy, and impeccably well dressed (that's what we all relate to in pop, right? *cough*). I hate to say it, but my existence (and I'm sure the existence of others) is enough to disprove your entire thesis. This has been the most rewarding listen I've heard all year, I love this album, and I'll stand by it until all the Ashlee f4nz have moved onto their next disposable whore.
Posted 10/28/2005 - 09:21:34 AM by gnarles:
 I'm a huge Fiery Furnaces fan, and Blueberry Boat was my favorite album of 2004, but sadly I am going to have to side with Mike on this one despite some good points that Klaus made. After the first two tracks, which are admittedly brilliant, it begins to tire rapidly. I think the major problem is the music, which is often too baroque and tuneless and doesn't really fit Olga's vocals a lot of the time. Sarantos is a terrific narrator and I warmed to her voice almost immediately. Unlike many people who hear this record, my beef is not with Olga - it's with her grandchildren. The music cries out for a more subtle, focused approach to stay in line with Olga's musings, but it just isn't there, and the result is often cacophony. It's just hard to get through this monster - twice as hard than it is to get through Blueberry Boat, at least to me. As challenging as Blueberry Boat was, most of challenge was with sorting out the time changes and tone shifts, whereas here it's trying sort out the tortuous sonic dissonce of Olga's narratives verses the spotty music. A pretty Sisyphean effort if you ask me. Rehearsing My Choir creates an interesting paradox for me - I admire them more than ever for putting this out at all, for hanging so much of themselves out there for possible ridicule like this, but at the same time, I think the album has to be ruled a failure for its execution. Olga Sarantos' interesting life and charismatic narratives deserve better than these mish-mash tunes. Maybe the upcoming Bitter Tea will make me appreciate Rehearsing My Choir more, but I have a feeling it'll make me - and the rest of you - forget about it altogether.
Posted 10/28/2005 - 10:58:31 AM by florenz6:
 Hup! I don´t like it, when someone makes me part of an anonymous "the rest of you"-crowd! This is the first album from the Fiery Furnaces I like nearly all the way though. This German (or whereever he may come from) Klaus said it all: the idea is so original, and it is brilliantly realized. it stretches definitely the format of song, es ist ein wunderbares Hörspiel, it doesn´t need to fit into a certain genre, it doesn´t need to fit expectations.Bringing old people into the focus of songs, has indeed very rarely been done as an overall concept. Gavin Bryars did this with his masterpiece "Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet" in the 70s.
Posted 10/28/2005 - 12:02:00 PM by J_R_K_:
 i've not heard this record. but i liked "blueberry boat" initially. i went and saw them play. it was really awful. the songs meshed together and were impossible to digest. i can't imagine this record is any less 'willfully obscure' than blueberry boat was. a concept album is a fine exercise, but the descriptors used to define this record sound so pretentious. by the way, 'willfully obscure' is my phrase- if i sees any one of you using it, you best hope i don't see you in un-virtual reality.
Posted 10/28/2005 - 01:11:28 PM by gM.Ed.:
 That comment makes me want to willfully kick you in the head... obscurely of course.
Posted 10/28/2005 - 01:24:58 PM by dskuja:
 Did they "pull a Kid A" then? :) Can't wait to hear this. When a brilliant band (I loved Blueberry Boat) confounds the audience, I usually end up loving it. I wonder if 5-10 years from now this release will be hailed as the overlooked masterpiece?
Posted 10/28/2005 - 01:25:26 PM by acid_puppy:
 This album has gotten routinley trashed by pretty much everyone in the indie media, and i dont understand why. Most fans and "common" people agree thats its a great album. I think this is one of those divisive albums that seperate the soulless critics from...well everyone else
Posted 10/28/2005 - 01:59:11 PM by jhitting:
 I heard it's just recordings of her grandmother over some that true? I didn't read the review but I like Blueberry Boat quite a bit.
Posted 10/28/2005 - 02:05:19 PM by dougrokakis:
 This album is a definite grower. They've taken their incoherent vision to a realm past Blueberry Boat and I'm really unsure as to whether I will be able to like it or not. I can appreciate the fact that they are making music that is challenging and otherworldly, but this is more challenging than any record to be released this year or in the past 5 years. It may even rival Trout Mask Replica for me when it's all said and done in terms of "WTF?".
Posted 10/28/2005 - 04:48:40 PM by BeingaBunny:
 i dont like the furnaces much. 'quay cur' was a great song - but a terrible way to start blueberry boat as nothing lived up to it. other songs had their moments, but on the whole it was inconsistent and offensive. i liked gallowsbird's bark even less. that said, after hearing one treacherous song on this album, i don't plan on listening to it ever. i see why people like the furnaces, at least on the surface, but they are too plodding for me.
Posted 10/28/2005 - 04:53:30 PM by idunnowhy:
 why do so many people comment BEFORE they hear that album? Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose? PS: fiery furnaces should release a cut of this minus the annoying grandma. Then it might actually be worth listening to. If you wanna leave a memoir, write a book. Sheesh.
Posted 10/28/2005 - 05:11:26 PM by dskuja:
 Wow, if it rivals Trout Mask Replica in the WTF department, then I'm really interested! :) Blueberry Boat started with the wrong song imho. Quay Cur should have been near the end. The sequencing of that album was all wrong. Too many "normal" songs in the middle. Still, I love it though. (Sorry, I digressed.) I really respect bands that are unafraid. I wish REM would get off their loathsome spotty behinds and do a Kid A or White Album or Rehearsing My Choir.
Posted 10/28/2005 - 05:16:44 PM by pabanks46:
 To the above: at least Trout Mask Replica has some charm and can (loosely) be seen as anticipating Tom Waits, who has had (infrequent) moments of brilliance following a similar course. The growth you get listening to those records, I promise you, does not parralel what will happen if you listen to this aural turd time and again. Besides, why should you have to try SOOOOO HARD to *like* something. I mean, multiple listening = rewards is the critic's mantra, and I would stand by it too. However, a critic should have enough self confidence that he knows no matter how hard you squeeze a prune, there's not going to be tasty OJ for breakfast as a result. If this is hailed in 5 years by some jackhole, so what? That doesn't mean anything. Choir is no Blueberry Boat, period.
Posted 10/28/2005 - 07:59:44 PM by revolvingatom:
 Everything this band has recorded so far is incredible for one reason or another. Conceptually, I love this album. It is like a scrap book from antiquity set to post-modern music. My only complaint is the use/overuse of Olga's voice, which upon the first few listens I found novel and thrilling but now find myself wanting her to just shut it so that I can emmerse myself in the music. I realize that her narration is essential to the theme, but maybe they could have reduced her "speaking" parts or had someone else perform them. This is blasphemy to anyone who thinks that this would detract from the Beefheartian aspect of the album, but if I want to hear "Beefheartian" I listen to Beefheart. With the Fiery Furnaces the only voice I care to hear is the slinky abstractness of Eleanor Friedberger's.
Posted 10/30/2005 - 09:44:14 AM by raskolnikov:
 This band is a bad joke. Their musical "soundscapes" are simplistic and dinky, their equipment is garbage, and if they were writing fiction they might be more worthwhile, as they do write a good lyric from time to time. But as we all know, great bands are made by making great music, not by writing good lyrics paired with boring and uncreative music. This band is aural torture for me; I truly cannot understand why anyone would find this band worth the time required to listen to them. Full to the gills with pretense and self-regard--there is absolutely nothing subversive about these shallow rich-kid Americans. Their family narrative is as uninteresting as their music. I do not understand the motivations of anyone who is a fan of this band. I suspect that critical raves of any kind hold far too much water with most readers on this forum; remember that critics also like such tripe as Radiohead, Bloc Party, Interpol, and the Arcade Fire. It is also bordering on blasphemy to mention the revered Captain Beefheart in conjunction with this crap-ass band. The Magic Band played with so much more intensity, wonder, and passion than these overrated, pretentious clowns. Here's 10 current bands/artists you should pay attention to instead: Sin Ropas, Khanate, Jack Rose, Lightning Bolt, the USAisamonster, Xasthur, Thuja, Nels Cline, Vibracathedral Orchestra, and Oneida. All of these bands will reward your interest with great music and solid live performances (excepting Xasthur, of course). All of these bands grind mediocrities like the Fiery Furnaces into dust.
Posted 10/30/2005 - 11:21:38 AM by revolvingatom:
 Oh thank you Raskolnikov for leading us hapless sheep out of the darkness of "aural torture" and into the light of your profoundly insightful list of artists we "should" be listening to. It is this kind of narrow-minded absurdity that led the nazis to destroy countless works of art on the grounds of them being "degenerate". It amazes me how blissfully unaware self-righteous mud slingers are of their level of obnoxiousness.
Posted 10/30/2005 - 01:09:42 PM by dskuja:
 raskolninov, um, have you actually heard Blueberry Boat or the new one? I adore Blueberry Boat, AND, I also greatly admire Khanate, Lightening Bolt and Vibracathedral Orchestra. So what does that make me, then? (Radiohead and Arcade Fire are also very good. Sorry for living.) I'm really glad that you are not a Stylus writer.
Posted 10/30/2005 - 02:29:37 PM by phuett:
 raskolnikov, you remind me of myself in 8th grade. Mock on, sir, mock on
Posted 10/31/2005 - 04:02:00 AM by NickSouthall:
 Fiery Furnaces, how do I hate you? Let me count the ways...

1. Self-indulgent
2. Horrible
3. Tuneless
4. Nasty
5. etcetera...
Posted 10/31/2005 - 11:46:33 AM by cwperry:
 I don't like Fiery Furnaces, but it could be worse. It could be Petra Haden Sings 'The Who Sell Out.' Now THAT is self-indulgence.
Posted 11/02/2005 - 11:00:39 AM by raskolnikov:
 here are ten more bands whose excreted effluvia have more innate value than the Fiery Furnaces: Sonic Youth, Earth, Ghost, Landing, Wolf Eyes, Noxagt, Radian, Sightings, 6 Organs of Admittance, and Pelican. I will check in as needed with more lists of bands who are better deserving of your money and attention. And from the looks of things on this site, it is sorely needed..... I think my next list will include some old stuff, just for fun....
Posted 11/06/2005 - 02:41:15 PM by scatter:
 Nothing more pretentious than the the Fiery Furnaces, eh?
Posted 11/27/2005 - 06:04:16 PM by PlatypusQuest:
 Fiery Furnaces, how do I LOVE you? Let me count the ways... 1. Charming 2. Complex 3. Unique 4. BRILLIANT 5. Et cetera....... And, I might add, I'm beginning to like Rehearsing My Choir more than Blueberry Boat. It grows on you, and it's extrarodinary.