The Furniture bill themselves as ‘a successful amateur rock’n’roll band from Massachusetts.’ They’ve been around since 2015, originating as a project between Nicholas Ward (who also plays in Hallelujah the Hills) and Jeffrey Walsh. Unlike the more cacophonous music Hills produces, in The Furniture is straight-up indie rock’n’roll. Now fleshed out with Michael O’Brien on guitar and synth and Lucy Nadeau on bass and vocals, The Furniture are back with their latest release, Universe City. This could be seen as their début long-player, as their previous releases have been Extended Plays (ep’s) and singles.
Universe City dropped last Tuesday, on St. Patrick’s Day. And, given the ickiness and nastiness of the world around us right now, this is a wonderful shot in the arm. The Furniture give us some straight-up bouncy, guitar-based indie rock. Within about two seconds of hitting play, my head was bouncing along and my feet was tapping out the beat. This is some infectious music for some infectious times.
Whilst this is guitar-based music, as Ward and O’Brien trade leads, it is actually Nadeau’s bass that drives the music. The bass drives the rhythm forward, and provides both a grounding for the metronomic drums of Walsh. And that gives the music the basic bounciness, but it also allows the rhythm guitar to both be grounded to the bass at times, but it also means it is free to wander, to say nothing of the lead guitar
Ward the lyricist doesn’t take him all that seriously. In opener ‘O Control,’ he sings
I won the Nobel in physics
And the Winter Olympics
And the Palme D’Or
With the charm of a musket
And the arms of a bucket
Running on capital letters
Things ain’t getting any better
And in the second track, ‘Breakfast & Laundry,’ he sings about, well, needing coffee and domesticity. But this track, which is centred around a rather wicked little guitar riff, he sings
Never never tycooon
But I killed in the boardroom
And then I got this neck tattoo.
I think my favourite part of this is the way in which Ward sings and delivers his lines, as he’s both your bartender telling you stories, and he’s the guy you’ve been talking to for 20-something years. He’s personable. You want to buy more drinks from him just to keep him talking.
On ‘Florida,’ Nadeau takes over the vocals, and her voice is both higher and feminine, and it also fades into the music in a way that Ward’s does not. Taken together with the music, this creates a complete change of pace for the band, especially as her vocals are deeper into the mix than Ward’s are. Ever since ‘Van Diemen’s Land’ on U2’s Rattle & Hum, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of another band member taking over vocals for a song from a lead singer. In that case, The Edge provides both continuity and change with Bono, as his lyrics for the song could have just as easily been written by Bono, but his tenor voice is entirely different. And here, with Nadeau on vocals, it totally changes the tenor of The Furniture. With Ward on vocals, he dominates in a way similar to Pink Eyes does in Fucked Up. With Nadeau on vocals, the band is something else entirely again. However, The Furniture work just as well with her up front, unlike the problems Fucked Up have when Pink Eyes isn’t on the mic.
‘Honey Movin” actually does see Ward’s vocals buried a bit deeper, as both the rhythm and lead guitars play the same riff with different distortion. And Ward just wants to get it moving, ‘You be a strobe light, I’ll be the disco ball. I am also partial to the penultimate track, ‘F Em All,’ which is not actually a snotty punk song, but a jangly and melodic trip down memory lane with his Mrs.
Universe City is already on heavy rotation around here.