Where To Start With... Ezra Furman
Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Ezra Furman is a difficult artist to classify. As a songwriter, Furman's broad stylistic spectrum evokes everything from Jonathan Richmann and Tom Waits to Chuck Berry and The Velvet Underground. As a performer, Furman is no easier to nail down; one night he's dressed in a smart shirt-and-tie combo, the next a short red dress. The musical stylings may be rich and varied, but the aesthetic is pure punk rock.
Furman's first musical offerings came with the debut album from his former band, Ezra Furman & The Harpoons, in 2007, but after the release of the band's third album Mysterious Power in 2011 Furman launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the recording of a solo album, The Year of No Returning, which he self-released in 2012 before signing to Bar/None Records, who re-released the album the following year. It was to be a turning point and ever since then Furman has continued his career as a solo artist, releasing a critically-acclaimed second album, Day Of The Dog, in October 2013.
This week he releases his third solo LP, Perpetual Motion People, and it may just be his best yet. The two singles released so far, 'Restless Year' and 'Lousy Connection', offer a good cross-section of the range on offer here; the former sounding like a collision between Vampire Weekend and Modern Lovers, the latter like
a Violent Femmes number recorded by Phil Spector and featuring some typically deadpan lyrics: “So I've been working on this letter to Congress / Regarding some things that I think they should address / Showed up in court wearing an Indian head-dress / Somehow I think maybe the meaning was lost...”
You can preview Perpetual Motion People on the right-hand side of this page and you can also find the video for 'Restless Year' below. If you're new to Furman's music however, underneath we've put together five of the best moments from his career so far...
'I Wanna Be Ignored'
Taken from Banging Down The Doors, the debut from Ezra Furman & The Harpoons, 'I Wanna Be Ignored' is a blast of lo-fi ramshackle punk that comes fizzing out of the speakers and reminds you of the Dead Milkmen or Minutemen, featuring a typically disaffected hook line: “I wanna be ignored / And I'm well on my way...”
As an introduction to Furman's early output, this is as good as any.
'Take Off Your Sunglasses'
Featured on the second album with his former band, Inside the Human Body, 'Take Off Your Sunglasses' is probably one of the most well-known tracks from Furman's time with The Harpoons and it's certainly one of the catchiest.
'Are You Gonna Break My Heart?'
Taken from his first solo album, The Year of No Returning, 'Are You Gonna Break My Heart?' is two minutes and fifty three seconds of acoustic guitar-led pop perfection with a lyric that's dripping in bitter heartbreak: “If you ever got to use your heart / You wouldn't even know where to start / So let me put your mind to rest / It's a useless antique tucked away in the chest.”
One of his most popular songs, 'My Zero' features on his second solo album Day Of The Dog and sees Furman channelling Daniel Johnston and delivering some of his most poetic lyrics. It's not as fast and furious as some of the other tracks on the album, but it offers some tender respite and has a gorgeous melody that will lodge itself into your head and stay there.
'Tell 'Em All To Go To Hell'
Our final pick is another track from Day Of The Dog and its another nod to Phil Spector-style production, but we've included it here because it involves one of our favourite lyrics from the whole record: “I'm caught in a mouse-trap I set for myself / Where I sneer at ideas of material wealth / And I sleep in the alley / And I walk through the valley / Of the shadow of the fabulous four.” It's great.