The Friedbergers open the furnace for another bag of pop parlor tricks.
With Drug Rug, 8 p.m. Friday, January 29, at Walter's on Washington, 4215 Washington, 713-862-2513 or www.pegstar.net.
For the past several releases, it seems that the mad-scientist half of Fiery Furnaces has been winning, lending a strikingly experimental edge to the band's usual grab bag of pop parlor tricks. If Fiery Furnaces needed proof that it hasn't gone too far afield, last summer's I'm Going Away is certainly it; the album is focused on simplicity and the perfection of form. Fortunately, the Friedberger siblings couldn't completely eliminate the quirkiness that typifies even their most straightforward efforts. Melodies occasionally turn serpentine, form studies turn in on themselves and stabs of jazzy mayhem punctuate the overall soft sound; it is comforting and thrilling at the same time. This past fall, the band released a "covers" album, rehashing a dozen Away tracks as solo efforts on Take Me Round Again. Most of the new takes turn arrangements upside down, creating mournful ballads where defiant stomps once trekked (and vice versa). It's a testament to Fiery Furnaces' skill, and the strength of the Friedbergers' deft hand at arranging, that most of these new takes stand up just as well as the originals. Some are even better. Listen to I'm Going Away, then Take Me Round Again, then go to the show. You're virtually guaranteed three very different, very enjoyable takes on this one album.