After releasing two albums (1996's cassette-only Erie County Solid Waste Division and 1998's Neuromantic), Furnace St., which formed in Oberlin in 1996, has developed an ardent following among the local Goth/industrial crowd. The band, now based in Lakewood and consisting of singer/multi-instrumentalists Adam Boose and Lisa Jorgensen, creates dark, moody music that has its roots in European synth-pop from the mid-'80s. While often compared to Depeche Mode and New Order, Furnace St. isn't as pop-oriented as those groups. You can, however, hear elements of Joy Division and Ultravox in the slow-motion, drum machine beats the band pairs with orchestral synthesizers and whispered vocals.
The fact that much of the music here has such clear antecedents suggests that Furnace St. hasn't developed a distinct identity of its own. In fact, the retro sound, which recalls the Goth-like tendencies of relatively obscure groups such as Xymox and Camouflage, is hardly innovative. When they don't sound like Ultravox's Midge Ure, Boose's restrained vocals recall Trent Reznor on Furnace St.'s "Again," a track that trickles along for nearly eight minutes. Jorgensen, who sings backup on some of the songs, helps keep Boose's dour mood from becoming overbearing, yet the group wears its influences a little too proudly.
Furnace St. is better off when it departs from the Euro synth-pop formula. In "Square," it increases the beats per minute and emphasizes a heavy guitar riff in addition to the swirl of synthesizers. And for once, Boose actually adds some inflection to his voice and sounds angry. The track represents a needed change of pace and has a number of sonic flourishes that work together well and suggest Furnace St. might eventually break out of the Euro synth-pop mold.