Chocolate Horse/Brian Olive/Fiery Furnaces on Fountain Square tonight

To say that the Fiery Furnaces latest album (I'm Going Away) is its most "accessible" in recent years might seem like sort of a backhanded compliment. However, this is a band that seems to pride itself on "difficult albums" and "artistic cred" and they've suffered some backlash for these stubborn pursuits. For crying out loud, the Friedbergers' grandmother sang half the vocals on the band's 2006 album Rehearsing My Choir. Even hardcore indie rock fans had trouble getting behind that one.

So maybe it was time for the band to pack away some of its eccentricities. From a critical perspective, it's paid off - I'm Going Away is clinging to "Universal Acclaim" status over at Metacritic right now, and while I've never been a hardcore fan of the band, what I've heard of the album matches up pretty well with my favorite FF album EP, (it's 50 minutes long - definitely more of an album than actual EP).

Live, they're a bit of a mixed bag. For at art-driven as their music is, the stage show is pretty straight forward: just the band on stage hammering out a bit more ragged versions of their poppier album-version counterparts. A song like "Chris Michaels" (a favorite of mine from Blueberry Boat) isn't necessarily enhanced by the live experience, though it is interesting to see how they pull it off. But I doubt many people go to shows to see how a band handles time signatures.

One big plus for me is the hiring of Sebadoh's Jason Loewenstein. Not that his bass-playing necessarily brings a huge difference to the way the band sounds, it's just good to see him out.

Criticism hardly means much when you can see the band for free tonight and make your own opinions. I strongly suggest checking out both opening acts, particularly Brian Olive. His self-titled 2009 album might just hold out as one of the best of the year. Show starts at 7. You should go.

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