The hottest tunes to try, and the ones to dodge, this week, just for you from us
The Broken Family Band
4/5 Please And Thank You Well that’s a relief. In 2005 The Broken Family Band released the splendid Welcome Home, Loser, a country-influenced, darkly comic modern classic combining wry lyricism and expert hooks. Expectations were high for future releases but 2006’s otherwise competent Balls lacked, with a couple of exceptions, any particularly memorable tracks, and the following year’s Hello Love was stuck in an uncomfortable middle-ground between country and alt-rock. It was looking worryingly like they’d begun an unstoppable downward slide.
Thankfully, Please And Thank You sees the band settling comfortably into their new, rockier style without giving up the biting wit that has always made them so compelling. Opener ‘Please Yourself’ kicks in hard with bass and drums, with crashy-guitar-led single ‘Salivating’ and thumping numbers ‘The Girls In This Town’ and ‘Don’t Bury Us’ maintaining the upbeat tempo – even if the content is less than chipper. Indeed ‘St. Albans’, the story of the worst date in the world, and the creeping horror of ‘You Did A Bad Thing’ have to be two of the grimmest songs we’ve heard in quite a while, though perfectly in keeping with the claustrophobic tone of much of the album. After two variable entries in their canon, it’s good to see The Broken Family Band firmly back on top of their game and comfortable with their new sound. Thank you very much, chaps. More please. James Wilkinson Available to download from online stores.
The Fiery Furnaces
2/5 I’m Going Away Growing up in Oak Park, brother and sister Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger must have ridden bikes past the Nathan G Moore house. It’s an early Frank Lloyd Wright work and, architecturally speaking, it’s a mess. The mustard-and-chocolate monstrosity mashes together Tudor frames, rococo flourishes, gargoyles, classical columns, Gothic apses and modern lines. The anything-goes show-off piece is fascinating to look at, but you’d never want to live in it.
And that’s pretty much been the case with the Friedbergers’ Fiery Furnaces records: scatterbrained jumbles of art-pop ideas and the dense, nonsensical ramble-singing of Eleanor. She hasn’t met a chorus she failed to stuff with an entire short story of travelling salesmen or amnesiac tourists. Brilliant in spots, but overwhelming as a whole, Furnaces’ LPs would be impenetrable if not for their silly enthusiasm.
The duo’s sixth studio album makes great effort to strip away bells and whistles. Gone are the farty synthesizers, kazoos, sound effects and 10-minute run times. Here, the arrangements stick to a standard cocktail-lounge line-up of bass, drums, guitar and piano, all bathed in warm, organic production.
Perhaps not surprisingly, straight-forwardness does not suit the Friedbergers. When jazzy percussion, boogie-woogie ivory-twinkling and light 12-bar riffing congeal in noodling passages of ‘Charmaine Champagne’ and ‘Staring At The Steeple’, you’d be excused for thinking you’re listening to a Phish or Zappa record. A few simpler soul-tinged numbers like ‘Cut The Cake’ and the upbeat finger-snapper ‘Keep Me In Ihe Dark’ fortunately breeze by like Pavement’s dweeby best.
The Fiery Furnaces crank out a lot of records. Hopefully on the next one they’ll stop merely tinkering with the same old weird house, and just bulldoze the goofy framework right down to the ground. Brent DiCrescenzo Available to download from online stores.