The Fiery Furnaces
By David Chiu
To merely say the music is ‘eclectic’ on the latest album by the Brooklyn-based brother-sister team of Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger would be the understatement of the year.Bitter Tea is a dizzying array of influences and sonic effects: Yoko Ono, Gilbert and Sullivan, electronic, avant garde, disco, Rick Wakeman, lounge and circus music. Not even Moby or Prince is that ambitious. And yet this cacophony of sounds all blends into an interesting whole with each song easily morphing into the next. Throughout the buzzing sounds, and Casio-like keyboards, the Furnaces doesn’t alienate those weaned on conventional pop as tunes such as “Teach Me Sweeheart,” “I’m Waiting to Know You,” and the winsome Nevers prove otherwise. Matthew Friedberger’s lyrics seem to take a page from the Steely Dan songbook: cryptic, off-handed, stream-of-consciousness as it is literary (How many songwriters out there would name drop Mormon founder Joseph Smith?). His sister Eleanor’s vocals, which is reminiscent of Patti Smith’s, adds a wistful and sometimes robotic chill to this conceptual work. For of its experimentations, Bitter Tea is quite easy to take a swill and deserving of a second helping. Don’t be surprised to hear this being played in many alternative record stores such as NYC’s Kim’s Underground.