Under the Radar: Ezra Furman challenges society in new album

Emily Gibson

Rock music heralds the misfits, and perhaps no one knows this better than singer-songwriter Ezra Furman, who released his third solo album, Perpetual Motion People, on July 10.

The 28-year-old Chicago-native looks up to Lou Reed, David Bowie and Little Richard who, like him, refuse to be categorized. His glam-rock heroes helped him discover his own identity, which he explained in his article for the Guardian about being bisexual and genderfluid, meaning he doesn’t relate to standards of “male” or “female.”

Furman wrote he is “proud to exist in an ambiguous, undecided state.” PMP embodies his uncategorized lifestyle.  The album isn’t sure what it is or what it wants to be — the sound ranges from folk to blues, doo-wop and traditional rock ‘n’ roll. More than proving Furman’s refusal to confine himself to one particular genre, PMP proves he is not only a jack of all trades but a master of many.

 

Furman’s feelings of loneliness and confusion often inspire the tracks on PMP. At times, the 13-track album is manic and rash and, at others, calm and reflective. In Furman’s lyrics, listeners can hear him recounting his mental illness, discovering his identity and critiquing a boring world.

The album’s April-released single, “Lousy Connection,” laments the contemporary world’s alienations and oppressions. Although the song is upbeat and danceable, the lyrics tell the story of a confused modern society. The conflicting feelings of the modern day culminate in the line: “there’s nothing happening and it’s happening too fast.”

In other songs, such as “Haunted Head” and “Can I Sleep In Your Brain?,” Furman tells of his struggle with depression. The latter track begins a slow and contemplative piano ballad and builds to a saxophone-laced jazz tune while Furman asks, “Can I sleep in your brain tonight, stranger? / Can I spend just one night in your mind?”

Despite Furman feeling like an outsider, the lyrics on PMP are almost always relatable. They sound, at times, like a manic stream of consciousness and, at others, like a genuinely confused observation of a world he doesn’t feel included in.

For most young people, his lyrics embody feelings they’ve experienced without ever bothering to describe — and, because of that, Furman endears the listener. When he sings, “I’m tired of this record already” on the track “Ordinary Life,” he embodies the lingering feeling of millennial boredom. Then, on “Body Was Made,” he inspires his audience to take control of their body and being: “Your body is yours at the end of the day.”

This isn’t a perfect album. The prolonged “Hour Of Deepest Need” is a strange addition that slows the album down just as it begins. The rest of the record’s distinct sound drowns out familiar, noisy tracks, such as “Tip Of A Match.” But these blemishes don’t detract from the album as a whole — they emphasize Furman’s flawed charm.

The album is emotional on first listen, but it doesn’t fully hit home until the second, when the listener has become attached to Furman and spends the 42 minutes connecting with and rooting for him. Even the songs that sounded strange the first time now fit into the album that sounds as chaotic as Furman’s mind must be.

The record ends with the Western-sounding, un-ironic folk ballad, “One Day I Will Sin No More.” The final track feels like Furman stirring the already-strange pot, which perhaps, he fears, has become too familiar in its oddity. If anything, the album’s final track reinforces Furman’s refusal to settle down.

Album: Perpetual Motion People

Genre: Indie

Tracks: 13

Rating: 7/10