Energy and honesty can make just about any style of music feel right. Considering the already wide body of work from Ezra Furman, it’s no surprise that their sophomore solo record sounds so much more developed than your typical follow-up. While Furman never tries to rein in the insanity in their production, their drive really makes it work more often than it doesn’t.
With a righteous rasp, Furman guides the album with the certainty and hysteria as a preacher, starting his sermon with the grime and serenity of “Suck The Blood From My Wound.” Furman’s triumphant energy constantly elevates the lo-fi mélange of the song to something meaningful. “Driving Down To L.A.” somehow intersects Neil Young and The Gorillaz in a static-heavy blues croon for the ages. Furman’s epic ramp ups into brutal distortion constantly pack a punch to make every chorus a throttling experience.
There’s a delicate dance to tracks like “God Lifts Up The Lowly” as the string sections move back and forth between their atypical mixes of rhythms. Through it all however, Furman’s steadfast direction ties it together to make it emotive rather than disorienting. Furman gives a modern sensibility to “Sympathy For the Devil” on his track “No Place” as rollicking drums and a piercing organ create an immediate sense of tension that snowballs quickly. The tempered breaks that Furman breaks up the song with give so much more weight to the song’s energy, although it never really pushes beyond its initial ruckus.
“The Great Unknown” delightfully spins the frantic percussive yells into its song’s greater narrative, as the screamer grows pained as the song goes on. The song’s spritely mood and brisk tempo makes all that heavy energy of the rhythm section feel like an inner monologue against the song’s seemingly honest lyrics. The honesty comes to the forefront however on “Compulsive Liar” as Furman reveals the sad roots of his bad habits. Though intensely eccentric in production, the song’s loose groove never loses the listener.
Despite the pop-rock drive of “Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill” it’s the lyrics and dirty truths that make the song worth hearing. This said, the little synth hooks are constantly invigorating and the furious harpy harmonies that close the song really take it over the top. Though intensely intriguing, “From A Beach House” is certainly a scatterbrained mix of ideas that come together in abrasive ways. While the song’s two main sections really contrast each other at first, Furman actually manages to blend them together powerfully.
“Love You So Bad” is so overt in its romantic intention, that it feels like Furman is almost making fun of himself through the violins and early lyrics. Though initially cheesy, the arrangements slowly become pained as the lyrics reveal a much more troubled past behind the love. There’s something endlessly fascinating about the way Furman mashes genres together, as he manages to make vintage blues sound modern and gritty on “Come Here Get Away From Me.” Though it might not work for everyone, it’s hard to ignore the excitement Furman can muster in moments like his final bridge and chorus.
The goofy narration of “Peel My Orange Every Morning” makes its explosive breaks all the more outlandish but the track is definitely more of a novelty than anything else. “Psalm 151” carries that typical Radiohead brand of sombre, sad rock until it hits the pounding notes of the chorus. As Furman really ramps up the instrumentation in these moments, the song’s religious undertones peak through in a majestic sweep of sound. “I Lost My Innocence” spins back to a goofy and lighthearted energy to make Furman’s coming-of-age tale feel as romantic as he remembers it.
Words by Owen Maxwell