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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Glorious Cacophony
Bitter Tea is The Fiery Furnaces' fifth album in three years and represents another harmonious cacophony of sounds, beats, rhythms, with Eleanor being given much more freedom on vocals, to make this the siblings' best album to date.

Thematically, the album is dominated by a teenage girl's relationship with a boy who never makes an appearance on the album. She...
Published on 1 July 2007 by Amazon Customer

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3.0 out of 5 stars Bad research
I bought this album on the basis of a track I had heard but was given the wrong details for the Artist and Album (my fault). Not an album that i could personally recommend. The seller however did dispatch the item immediatley.
Published 16 months ago by Bob Cheeseman


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Glorious Cacophony, 1 July 2007
By 
This review is from: Bitter Tea (Audio CD)
Bitter Tea is The Fiery Furnaces' fifth album in three years and represents another harmonious cacophony of sounds, beats, rhythms, with Eleanor being given much more freedom on vocals, to make this the siblings' best album to date.

Thematically, the album is dominated by a teenage girl's relationship with a boy who never makes an appearance on the album. She is either pining for him, despairing for his loss, indulging in escapism, or picturing an unhappy future without him.

Wrapping each song is the siblings' unique brand of pop music - pianos, xylophones, sudden changes of tempo and instruments, music and vocals played in reverse (listen out on "Black-Hearted Boy" for the ethereal, Celtic sound produced when Eleanor's vocals are reversed) ... There is almost something cartoon-like about the music, with all of its swirls and twirls, its giddy excitement, and its manic headlong rush to nowhere in particular. This is captured too in the vocals, with both Matthew and Eleanor combining to announce on "Bitter Tea" that "I am a crazy crane / I lost my true love in the rain".

The album opens with "In My Little Thatched Hut", with the girl casually watching life go by, as she waits for her lover to turn up. While Eleanor's lyrics never change, their self-assuredness diminishes as the music steadily picks up tempo and there is still no sign of lover-boy rowing up to where she waits for him. It is followed by "I'm In No Mood", with its twin assault of piano and xylophone and a very lethargic and sullen girl, who had fallen into bed drunk the night before.

The album's most curiously entitled song is "The Vietnamese Telephone Ministry", which ends with Eleanor singing out a telephone number (which apparently belongs to a bewildered Spanish-speaking lady in reality... not that I checked!). It also shows the girl's anxiety as she deals with what she perceives as this rejection:

I thought myself an unworthy thing

Despairing of my case all the time, boys

I thought myself an unworthy thing

Despairing of my case all the time, boys

Damn it all, damn it all to hell

Damn it all, damn it all.

"Borneo" is a crazed tale of a life filled with petty theft, card sharks, generous benefactors, and white collar crime. It is improbable and cartoon-like escapism, emphasized by the rapid tempo laid down and the sing-song vocals of Eleanor.

"Benton Blues Harbour" is about the girl presumably imagining growing old and alone, not even bothering to change her clothes from day to day. The following lines capture this despair:

As I try to fill all of my empty days

I stumble round on through my memory's maze:

Of all my past, only the sadness stays

Other songs worth listening to include "Teach Me Sweetheart", which is a tender song about in-laws demanding blood be spilled, "Oh Sweet Woods", an acid-trip of a song where Mormons kidnap what proves to be the wrong Eleanor Friedberger in order to get their hands on an antique pocket watch, "Police Sweater Blood Vow", with its mobile phone-style chorus, and the poignant "Nevers".

If the album has a major flaw, its that seventy-four minutes is for the truly dedicated listener, as there is simply too much to absorb in one sitting. However, this remains experimental, unpredictable, and gloriously-sounding pop music. Captain Beefheart was never quite like this. Listen & enjoy!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Odder the Better, 30 April 2006
By 
David Hetherington (Northallerton, North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bitter Tea (Audio CD)
The Fiery Furnaces just get odder as the years go by.

Whereas the EP and the first album Gallowsbird's Bark were the most accessible albums, the band made more challenging stuff with Blueberry Boat and Rehearsing My Choir. Bitter Tea seems to be somewhere in between.

While there are still some highly weird tracks present, there are some moments of pop genius here. Amongst all the cheap keyboards and blues guitars, the Fiery Furnaces have a real ear for a catchy tune that they only let out once in a while in their previous work. Here that talent is shown frequently and although I've heard some confused reactions (when I played the CD on the computer, my brother told me it sounded like the PC was crashing) if you take the time to really get into it and listen to the stories you will be rewarded.

Although it's certainly not the epic that Blueberry Boat was (that an internet cartoon described as 'The Who playing nursery ryhmes for ADD kids'), Bitter Tea gives you everything that the Furnaces are all about. New and experimental music that you can still find yourself humming throughout the day. Not many bands can claim they do that.

It might be an idea to listen to some tracks from the EP first though (Evergreen, Sing For Me) just to familiarise yourself with their style.

This record alone proves why everyone should take notice of this unique band.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Bad research, 13 Mar 2013
By 
Bob Cheeseman (Littlehampton, West Sussex , UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bitter Tea (Audio CD)
I bought this album on the basis of a track I had heard but was given the wrong details for the Artist and Album (my fault). Not an album that i could personally recommend. The seller however did dispatch the item immediatley.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Music-hall madness, 23 Jun 2006
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Bitter Tea (Audio CD)
The Fiery Furnaces got a lot of flack for their last album, a concept album about their grandmother's life. So fans will be glad that in "Bitter Tea," the eccentric musical siblings go back to what they do best: Music-hall madness.

This album has a less organic feel than their previous work, suggesting that Matt and Eleanor Friedberger are seeing what they are capable of. But their music hasn't changed too much: bizarre dance melodies, oddball songs and psychedelic slashing all make this an intoxicatingly weird experience.

It starts off with one of their best songs: the "Little Thatched Hut," with its sinuous dance beat, joined in by piano and acoustic guitar. But it doesn't stay static -- I don't think the siblings could stay musically still that long. The song explodes suddenly into bursts of electronic swoosh, tribal beats, and what sounds like a keyboard being strangled.

This sound continues over several other, full of electronic fuzzling between energetic piano and mellow acoustic guitar. And they also harken back to the Furnaces' previous albums, with "Benton Harbor Blues" sounding like a charming B-Side from their second album, and "Teach Me Sweetheart" is a charmingly muddled (and kind of gruesome) love ballad. Lots of bloodthirsty relatives!

But the Fiery Furnaces try out some new sounds as well, as several songs are more electronic-based than their prior work. The title track is a real rock song, and it's pretty dense and psychedelic. Elaborate swooshes, explosions of synth and wacky little samples are all laid over a dancey melody that is as infectious as it is bizarre. Though it's less organic, it's recognizably a Furnaces song.

Even after five albums, the Fiery Furnaces still don't get the recognition they deserve. Not only are they prolific and talented, but they also evolve and experiment more than any other band I know of. Piano-rock? Check! Seaside rock opera? Check! Random singles better than anything on the radio? Check! Grandma-centric concept album? Check!

But no matter what they do, their music always sounds like an old quaint music-hall being invaded by a crazed circus. Don't worry, the piano and guitar are still here, along with weird unidentifiable noises and vocal beatboxing. But there's a heavier amount of keyboard and electronic elements, which don't add much to the music, but do make it sound even odder.

And the siblings also produce the weirdest lyrics imaginable. Only these two could devote a song to defiantly leaving your hair uncombed. But Eleanor gamely explores loneliness, hope for love, and word games ("Knew Nevers? Nothing never I'll ever learnt!"). May they never get more commercial, and leave behind their songs about bitter tea, banyan trees, and crazy cranes in love.

The Fiery Furnaces add some keyboard bubbles to their glorious oddball pop, and "Bitter Tea" ends up being bittersweet. Thankfully, they are back on top of their game.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Furnaces lose their fire, 11 Jun 2006
By 
G. Whyman "ger11569" (Newport, South Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bitter Tea (Audio CD)
I bought this cd on the strength of their debut Gallowsbird's Bark which, despite some weak moments, was an enjoyable enough listen. Unfortunately this one is awful. So far I've tried 3 times to play this right through and on each occassion I've failed to reach the end - two thirds of the way through I have to stop it to end the torture. The songwriting is weak and somehow they've got it into their heads that tapes played backwards is a new innovation as, annoyingly, it's used on almost every track. It's a shame as their debut showed a lot of promise. Those interested should try their debut and avoid this - my copy is going to a charity shop asap.
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Bitter Tea
Bitter Tea by The Fiery Furnaces (Audio CD - 2007)
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