Fiery Furnaces : London King’s Cross Scala

Weird and wonderful...

Eleanor Friedberger is a woman who knows what she likes. And what Eleanor likes, mostly, is wine and fine men. These dual predelictions make for some awesome lyrics – or at least we think that they do. Most of the time we’re trying hard to decipher the snatched phrases of stream-of-breakdown, funtime-psychosis we hear pouring from her mouth.

Yep, Eleanor has got that thing all our favourite singers – from [a]White Stripes[/a] and [a]Yeah Yeah Yeahs[/a] to [a]Outkast[/a] and [a]Kelis[/a] – have, and that’s borderline insanity. Not insanity in a messy, about-to-be-sectioned, [a]Courtney Love[/a]-type way, but in the kind of magical way that makes them think, look and act slightly different to the rest of us; a way that makes them born stars.

Dressed-down in a beat-up leather bomber jacket, Eleanor doesn’t pull any ker-razy rock star shit tonight, but she’s still one of the most untouchable creatures we’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s because her bandmate brother, Matthew, is sat beside her onstage and you kinda get the impression that if you as much as look at her too long he’ll have you dead. Maybe it’s because she never smiles. Maybe it’s because she has a tendency to sing in tongues. Or maybe it’s because she’s the frontwoman of this year’s most intriguing new band.

[I]”Now we’re gonna play a bunch of songs really fast without stopping, “[/I] is one of three things she says tonight, as the four members of The Fiery Furnaces begin their blitz of 20 numbers in 35 minutes, then pause, say [I]”thank you”[/I] and start up again. Calypso-rock, carnival-pop, garage-punk, psychedelic funk… their keyboard-powered mish-mash is anything but straight, anything but serious. Like the pink elephants in Dumbo or a shroom-fuelled trip to the fairground, The Fiery Furnaces are colourful, twisted, hilarious and ever-so-slightly terrifying. From the collage of sound, fragments of recognisable tunes drift momentarily to the surface before being sucked back down into the quagmire of whirring noise and flashing lights.

There’s the three brilliant but completely diverse singles: the guitar hurricane of ‘Crystal Clear’, the soon-to-be-released ‘Single Again’ (the only song ever written about domestic abuse that you can dance to) and ‘Tropical Ice-Land’, Eleanor’s art-splattered attempt to describe her time spent in global-warmed England to her absent brother.

Uncharacteristically vulnerable set-closer ‘Rub-Alcohol Blues’ sees Eleanor crooning “If the men and wine don’t

kill me/There’s one more plan to find”. We can only hope that it’s song.

Krissi Murison