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The Fiery Furnaces | Gallowsbird's Bark (Rough Trade)
This certainly has been a year for oddities: the Hidden Cameras are the first to spring to mind when hearing this. Not that the Fiery Furnaces sound anything like Hidden Cameras - this is almost heavy metal folk with acoustic guitars strummed ferociously and vocalist Eleanor howling like a banshee. At times, there is a positively Vaudevillian feel to the album (check out track Inca Rag/Name Game), then things suddenly lurch into jazz-rock (Asthma Attack) and country, with Bright Blue Tie a queasy take on that seventies country staple, Hickory Hollow's Tramp. New York-based brother and sister Eleanor and Matt, who have supported the likes of Sleater-Kinney, The Kills and Spoon, never fail to amaze with their brazen ingenuity. Each track superficiously sounds simple but repeated listenings reveal a lot going on, not least birdsong, wheezing synthesizers and spirals of electric guitar which decorate each song. At times 'Gallowsbird's Bark' can be hard-going, mainly due to the sheer intensity of what's on offer. But, taken in smaller chunks, this is perfectly edible fare. Fiery Furnaces have produced an album of cosmoplitan originality and freshness.

John Stacey
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003