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Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Monday Night, Dining Room / Living Room (Long Table)

Saw this in the Haggadah during Seder and almost, um, plotzed:

Out of the fiery furnace
Seared in body and soul
Reborn in self-redemption
Finding favor in the wilderness

Now, I'm not saying this is actually where a certain band got their name from. The phrase itself is both alliterative and euphonious, and it's certainly not a random adjective-noun combination like we've become used to with band names; furnaces have flames in them, and thus they are fiery. No real mystery there. Well, OK, some mystery, but no surrealism.

But riddle me this: a quick Google search for "fiery furnace" turns up pretty much nothing but religious links, mainly to children's retellings of the Book of Daniel.[1] The story is set in Babylon[3] and is basically a prohibition against worshipping false idols, along with the usual hosannas for keeping the faith[4], etc. King says worship the idol, Hebrew children don't, get tossed in said fiery furnace, but said furnace does not, in fact, hurt them. The story I'm reading here ends with the line: "We know this because the Bible says so, and we know that the Bible is true."

So lots of interesting stuff here, of course, especially with the fire and Pentecostalism and all that sort of thing, but it's particularly good when you combine it with the Haggadah passage and then backflip it all onto the band. I don't think there's any question that there was at least a resonance intended there with either the Daniel story or the Passover verse, as spiritual (and specifically Biblical) concerns play a role in not a few FF songs. The obvious bit is "I Lost My Dog," which then leads us to the particular harmonic convergence, where it turns a blues progression and trope into an animal story into a religious fable. But religion isn't exactly alien to blues tropes, either, and the whole genre is only a lick away from gospel, a style suggested by not a few FF songs.

But what does the whole thing mean? What, in other words, is the fiery furnace? My immediate impulse is that it's either a sincere or a self-mocking or just outright critical evocation of indie purism stuff: as children, you refuse to worship the false idols of bad music, and you are thrown into the fiery furnace of social ostracism, but it does not hurt you, because your faith in the One True Music sustains you. I'm especially grabbed by the last two lines of the Haggadah verse: we find ourself not in redemption from a higher power, but in redemption that comes from our individualism, and we learn the benefits of the wilderness, of being an outcast, outside. It's a particular romantic version a lot of my peers (and me, hey) have of themselves, but maybe this isn't who it's being applied to. Maybe it's the siblings themselves, or the band itself. Maybe it's just that the Biblical reference was a useful thing in establishing the aesthetic, working along with the country-blues[5] tropes to evoke a feeling of age, of connection with the past.

Anyway, the points are: a) I don't know what the hell it means, but it's maybe useful in starting to dig into their songs, a project I hope to embark on shortly, and b) the story itself is something that has a weird number of resonances with the values system of my little subculture, and not a few other subcultures besides, and that's interesting. It's a nice little archetype to work in there.

[1] It also turns up this page, leading to this page, which has "Punk to Monk" in the title and is about a book called Youth of the Apocalypse and the Last True Rebellion, which is amazing. It also leads to this page entitled "Otherworldly Music & Hardcore Chant" which reminds me of the Danielsen[2] Famile on downers, or something. These all seem to be based around an Eastern Orthodox church in Roanoke, VA, which I should ask my friend Kris about. I want to buy this book.
[2] And the book of Daniel. Hmm.
[3] Mon.
[4] Like Jon Bon Jovi, damnit.
[5] Not country/blues, country-blues.