By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Oh yeah, as masterpieces go, Blueberry Boat was a blast. Better ambitious indie goofs should channel their compulsions into pomo brainteasers than douse augmented major sevenths in vermouth or stamp "avant-garde" on random tantrums. Eleanor's slightly prim, amused intelligence presented even nonsensical lyrics as open-ended allusionsno wonder she and her bro spawned a Da Vinci Code for pop blogs. Yet for those beguiled by the seemingly absurdist surfaces of Blueberry Boat's nautical free flow, reading Michael Barthel's exhaustive demonstration of narrative consistency (at claps.blogspot.com) was like learning that "Fixing a Hole" really was about Paul shooting heroin.
EP is your standard jumble of singles, B sides, and other leftovers, but even flawed cuts"let the dude sing" dips, Gallowsbird's Bark standout "Tropical Ice-Land" revved till instrumental clutter overwhelms the prosody, larks where the Furnaces disappear into alliterative whimsyreward in their discrete way. And the first three songs, structurally flawless, accomplish as much in 10:47 as Blueberry Boat did at more than seven times that lengthand, not coincidentally, cover less ground than any random 10-minute snippet of the full-length. On the opener, "Single Again," a simple keyboard repetition grows increasingly confused with each verse, neatly paralleling the narrative conceit (whittled down to sparse phrases) of Eleanor stumbling from one abusive marriage to the next, while the guitar leads an unsung chorus that's almost a parody of release.
Cramming basic song structures with intricate nuance is as useful an escape hatch from the trap of pop formalism as the iPod-gone-wild tune mashing of Blueberry Boat. Yet the Friedbergers appear wary of focused concisionthey've already announced an upcoming two-disc set, including a full-length "radio play" featuring their grandma. As masterpieces go, sounds like a blast. But is there room on your bed for another massive stuffed panda?