Whether you love them or hate them, you can’t accuse The Fiery Furnaces of lacking ambition. From concept albums about, and featuring, their grandmother, to songs that flit between sections that should by rights be completely different tracks, the Chicago duo have, depending on your taste, either spent a career creating some of the most original indie rock of recent years, or they’ve just spent seven albums being really really annoying.
If you’re of the latter opinion you might be in for a bit of a surprise – ‘I’m Going Away’ is one of the most straightforward things Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger have ever done. Indeed, songs like ‘The End Is Near’ and the title track, in a shocking show of restraint, manage to keep to one style throughout. There’s also a move away from the kind of nagging and hyperactive synth melodies that characterised ‘Blueberry Boat’ and ‘Bitter Tea’, with the duo embracing more of a slow, piano-led and almost soulful style on ‘Even In The Rain’ and ‘Ray Bouvier’.

There’s still some of their old frantic tendencies here, though – ‘I’m Going Away’ and ‘Charmaine Champagne’ are probably the best things on the album; hip-shaking, bluesy shuffles complete with Matthew’s fantastically obnoxious anti-guitar solos, while the menacing ‘Staring At The Steeple’ rocks one of the grittiest grooves the band has created since their debut, ‘Gallowsbird’s Bark’.

To hardcore Fiery Furnaces fans the album may seem a little slight compared to some of their, uh, weightier magnum opuses, but as experiments in relative conventionality go, it’s packed full of some of their most intelligent, exciting and downright catchy songs since ‘EP’. We’re sure they’ll be back with a reggae concept album about 18th century ivory dealers in Zanzibar soon, though. Bring it on.

By Tom Pinnock

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