By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The individual tracks of Blueberry Boat are mixed so that while Eleanor's voice is higher in the mix, her vocals, holding tightly to an unobtrusive little five-note range for the most part, are practically on equal footing with the rest of the layers. Matt explains this aesthetic thusly: "What I think a lot of people find as the annoying music on the record is supposed to be program music, is supposed to tell the story the way the vocals do...one is the picture and one is the dialogue, so to speak."
Program music is a trying genre to begin with, but the Fiery Furnaces complicate things further. For example, the band has taken to playing what Matt calls a "47-minute medley of our songs, the first two albums all jumbled together, backwards and forwards," during its live shows. But this little gimmick does, to put it mildly, convolute the tale they are trying to drive home with all that programming.
And this is the other difficulty with Blueberry Boat--every speck of the music is about the story, but what the hell is the story about? And do we care? The Fiery Furnaces make us work not only to understand, but also to just appreciate the music. And once you've put in all the work, is it even worth it? Is it Joyce or bad Beat poetry? Is it John Cage or a marching band geek tinkering with Bitches Brew?
After another lengthy description of the programmatic elements of the title track, Matt laughs and says, "Obviously, that sounds like a bunch of bullshit. But, you know, there's nothing wrong with a bunch of bullshit." And more than a propensity for pastiche or an aptitude for alliterative storytelling or even a desire to revive the mini-opera, that willingness to embrace both the greatness and the crap, just so long as you're trying to do something, is the Fiery Furnaces' true genius and the album's claim to fun and entertainment. In the band's creative approach and our attempts to like it, the process, rather than the product, is the point. (How's that for alliteration, Friedbergers?)