THE FIERY FURNACES
b/w “WE GOT BACK THE PLAGUE” (LIVE RADIO VERSION)/”SWEET SPOT”
Matthew Friedberger, the main songwriting force in The Fiery Furnaces, has repeatedly mentioned the influence both The Who and The Clash have on his work, particularly the albums Tommy and Combat Rock, respectively. Matt’s penchant for shifting song structures and strange sonic touches can be seen as the bastard son of these two records. Having said that, “Tropical Ice-Land” is positively straightforward by Fiery Furnace standards, yet still shows signs of their more experimental works.
“Ice-Land” first appeared on the band’s 2003 debut Gallowsbird’s Bark in a rustic acoustic arrangement; when issued as a single the following year, a brand-new recording turned the song into a power-pop number that could fit comfortably on Yo Gabba Gabba!. Matt’s sister Eleanor sings about various….things that can be found in the titular area, and the experiences to be had there:
Goat’s head in a deli case/Oh sweet angel-angel-bearded face/paper mache parade on at night/that’s what you do with no sunlight/In the tropical ice-land
Take intermission at the movies/Freeze outside for one quick smoke/Take a Klondike bar from the pop machine/Hey it’s ice cream, no not Coke/in the tropical ice-land
(They’re fans of The Fall, too.)
Halfway through the keyboards and harps give way to a tweely eerie instrumental bridge, after which the remainder of the song takes on a bit of an uneasy feel; minor chords are snuck in, backward vocals provide back-up and the chorus vocals are taken down an octave, creating an off-kilter effect that serves to make the song that much more interesting. Matthew seems to have a real knack for pop songwriting, but can’t help but to filter his more crowd-pleasing impulses through the various eccentricities he picked up from the aforementioned influences. Thank gosh for that.