Discussing the Beatles’ evolution circa Sgt. Pepper in the biography Many Years From Now, Paul McCartney talks about how they had “really hated that fucking four little mop-top boys approach. We were not boys, we were men.” They grew the facial hair to prove it! The ultimate image is that sepia-toned picture of George Harrison on the cover of All Things Must Pass. Dude looks like an old man. He was only 27 at the time!
Interestingly, the persistence of psychedelia in indie rock has involved the evolution of this “man” into the Shy Teenager Archetype, embodied most recently by Brooklyn’s Fiery Furnaces. (How old are they, 27 and 31?)
One wonders what separates the men from the boys nowadays. Beards and drugs? If so, then bully for the goddamn kids! The Fiery Furnaces’ Blueberry Boat takes Elephant 6–style kitchen-sink psychedelia and turns it into something less druggy and less psychedelic. This is sociocultural advancement.
In fact, the music on Blueberry Boat is so sublime that the awkwardness of the “shy teenager” syndrome, at times vanishes entirely. Eleanor Friedberger’s voice sails along atop the music like a sweeter-sounding Patti Smith. The early Who-inspired, mini-rock-opera approach of Eleanor and her brother Matthew (five songs in the eight-minute-plus range) isn’t exploited as an opportunity to just string half-baked ideas together, either.
Actually, the Who did that a bit on A Quick One, didn’t they? With the Fiery Furnaces, it’s “Rael” all the way.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 7, 2004