Thursday, 17 January 2008


I've been drawn back to the Fiery Furnaces because of David Byrne's forthcoming interpretation of this song, which in the manner of Kirsty MacColl's "A New England" adds a juicy extra verse about said ex-guru throwing his record collection in the bin. The Friedburgers had slowly drifted out of my consciousness since Gallowbirds Bark - potentially great pop minds losing themselves in well-meaning but ineptly-assembled indulgences - but Widow City is a smart collection, even if wearing its richness on its hidden pop sleeve and even if, as a duo, they cannot equal the unknowing boldness of, say, Pavement at their peak; the truly golden wonder of discovering their own readymade world as they struggle to master their instruments (on "Here" you can hear that last quarter rattling around Malkmus' soul).

But "Ex-Guru" is a terrific snap of post-psychedelic/arsequake pop; Eleanor takes the vocal, a winsomely hopeful tale of airport seminars, nephew's seaplanes in the Bahamas and thwarted obsession, over deceptively straightforward 1979 electro squelches, blossoming out into mellotron moodiness on the chorus ("She means nothing to me now," sung in precisely the manner intended to provoke extreme doubt). The second verse gets more virulently vibrant; she burns her clothes with eucalyptus juice, rips out the floor and paints all the platforms puce (the best use of the word "puce" in pop, without question), all the while trying to persuade her listener, with increasing desperation, that she's OK and will cope. The song suddenly detours into grinding Sub Pop guitar growls and biscuit tin beatboxes before a stately 1967 flute and harpsichord delicately rephrase the melody in time for the final chorus. With the sneaking wink of a question - "Does she kick up a thunderstorm when she thinks of my betrayal?" - Eleanor wanders off, lets it lie, tries another flavourful jam jar. Hopefully the scope of flavours is limitless.