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Album Review

"Do not attempt to listen to all at once," reads a disclaimer on the back of Remember, a sprawling live album that comes for any brain cells left unfried by the Fiery Furnaces' studio work. The band is well known for changing almost everything it can about its songs in concert, transforming them into Latin funk jams, keyboard-driven prog rock excursions, and elaborate medleys, but this album goes further, splicing together very different performances of each of its song into dazzling, and sometimes bewildering, musical collages. This isn't just an edited or subtly studio-enhanced live album along the lines of Kiss' Alive! or Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous: Remember not only subverts the purpose of most live albums — capturing a band's concert performance as accurately and unobtrusively as possible — but is also far more fragmented than anything they recorded in a studio. Over 40 songs performed by four different versions of the touring Furnaces lineup during three years' worth of playing in all kinds of venues provided fodder for Remember, which ends up feeling like one giant ever-changing song spanning two hours and two discs. The tangents and changes that embellished the album versions of these songs become their structures, transforming the album from a document into a springboard for even more daring experiments.

Remember begins with distorted applause and what sounds like a fantastic voyage through the circuitry of the band's keyboards, then throws listeners into the deep end with a mega-mosaic of "Blueberry Boat." Hopping from coy synth pop to raw punk, Eleanor Friedberger's voice is the only constant as listeners whip from snippet to snippet (at one point, she calls out the members of the band, sounding more like a ringmaster than a rock singer). From there, Remember dives deep into the Fiery Furnaces songbook, turning up an acid rock take on Gallowsbird's Bark's "Two Fat Feet" and a reverent, organ-driven twist on EP's "Remember." The album also offers a few clusters of stability, grouping songs from Bitter Tea into a suite on the first disc and smaller chunks of Blueberry Boat and Widow City on the second. As enmeshed as these songs are, there are a few great stand-alone moments: "Teach Me Sweetheart" improves on the Bitter Tea version by switching between charging guitars and theatrical keyboards, while "Japanese Slippers," "Crystal Clear," and "Chief Inspector Blancheflower" hit home just how muscular the Fiery Furnaces are when they choose to rock out. Remember offers such heroic doses of the band's hyperactive creativity that it might only appeal to the Furnaces' die-hard fans, and even they should take that disclaimer seriously — listening to all of Remember at once, or putting it on shuffle, could result in some serious disorientation. However, the band does things with this album that just wouldn't be possible on a more conventional live album, and difficult to do on an album created entirely in the studio. The Fiery Furnaces' hyperactive creativity keeps them fascinating in concert, on record, and on Remember's one of a kind fusion of those worlds.


Formed: 2000 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Restless sonic chameleons the Fiery Furnaces revolve around the brother and sister duo of Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger, whose prickly childhood relationship and musical family set the stage for their playful, unpredictable music. The Friedbergers' grandmother was a musician and choir director at a Greek Orthodox church near the family's home in Oak Park, IL; their mother, who had a penchant for Gilbert & Sullivan, played piano and guitar and sang; and throughout school, Matthew played standup...
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Remember, The Fiery Furnaces
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