I never could have guessed I'd be writing about the Fiery Furnaces this morning, but the ability to sample a new album via Emusic can change things.
Til now I'd become bored with the FF, although at first I was equally tripped into the hype surrounding their debut, which I found solid enough, but my ennui grew like necrotizing fasciitis. I was a tad more excited with Blueberry Boat, but soon felt the charms of Eleanor's limited range were being squandered with too much artsy farsty stuff (and I like the artsy fartsy). It's as if Franz Ferdinand, when they sang "Eleanor put your boots on," were extending the obvious bedroom metaphor to her as-yet unleashed singing potential.
Bitter Tea doesn't totally dress her right, but it does score fashion points by attempting something done already, late last year, namely by Broadcast on their Tender Buttons (note the title similarities), an album of wonderful Nico-meets-the bloopy-bleepy, an album of love songs set to synths sounding hotwired from a hijacked Atari 2600. Like a Rondelles record by Kraftwerk. And subtly dirty, too, cause sex is mostly context: I mean, 'tender buttons?' "black cat?" Yeah, baby. That's right. Touch 'em. (I'll apologize now, instead of in the comments section, thanks).
Some things on the new album still grate, like "Borneo," which proves they haven't totally jettisoned the talk-y influence of the commendable but ultimately unlistenable Rehearsing My Choir, made with their grandmother. But woweee these two from Bitter Tea: "I'm Waiting to Know You" and "Teach Me Sweetheart." Real songs, no atonal breaks, Eleanor on her game. Someone's in love, I can bet that much.
Unfortunately, very few of the other tracks on Bitter Tea, if none, hit the tender buttons ("Oh Sweet Words" is a nice Disco Moment). I can't tell if I'm too lazy to follow FF, or if the Friederburgers just can't finish a song. Until FF can find the balance they find on the above two tracks, for an album's length, I'll be cherry picking rather than buying. Maybe that's what really pushes file sharing, the fact that even talented artists over-extend themselves in an effort to record full albums. All EPs, that's what I say. It worked for Black Flag.
PS The two new Replacements' songs are awful. Pick up Mono by Grandpaboy if you want the real and better 'Mats reunion product. It was and sort of still is a secret, but Westerberg came close to admitting it, thankfully in a snotty way, via a Billboard Mag interview around the time of Mono's release, saying something to the effect of "yeah, ok, we recorded it with a specific bunch of guys that would make it a big deal. But we ain't saying so." You can tell by the first song, when Tommy chimes in. And because it's good.