THE FIERY FURNACES
Both the Fiery Furnaces and Inouk are New York bands that play blues-based rock. That's hardly a full description of their music, however. The two groups also incorporate folkie melodies into their work, and sometimes emphasize piano over guitar. There are differences between their styles, of course, but the bands are as compatible a double bill as any two post-hard-core or neo-punk-funk outfits.
One of the year's most-discussed indie-rock acts, the Furnaces provide plenty of talking points: They're a self-indulgent, sometimes contentious brother-and-sister act whose music is simultaneously naive and ambitious.
Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Matt Friedberger has confessed his admiration for the Who's pre-"Tommy" song suites, and the duo's second album, "Blueberry Boat," includes several kindred experiments: Such longish tunes as "Quay Cur" and the title track loosely combine sea chanteys, bluesy thumping, abstract electronic passages and childlike lyrics, often sung by Eleanor Friedberger.
Yet the Furnaces resemble the Who less than another Who-struck contemporary band, Guided by Voices. Both groups make fragmentary music that draws on '60s rock, but have a modern cut-and-paste sensibility. The distinction is that GBV's songlets are usually treated separately, while the Furnaces often string theirs together. Like a GBV album, "Blueberry Boat" is often catchy, sometimes inspired and occasionally silly -- and, whichever it is at any moment, it will be something else the next.
While more compact than the Furnaces', Inouk's compositions also tend to forgo customary pop-song structure. The 11 numbers on the quintet's "No Danger" shift and meander, although some of them do feature classic-rock elements, notably three-part harmonies. Guitarist Damon McMahon, guitarist-keyboardist Alexander McMahon and bassist Jesse Johnson all sing during the climaxes of such tunes as "Elected" and "Island," pushing the mood skyward. Still, the album's overall vibe is intriguingly misty. Even the mostly driving "Nudie Suit" ends as madrigal.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Friday at the Black Cat with White Magic. * To hear a free Sound Bite from the Fiery Furnaces, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8122; to hear Inouk, press 8123. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)