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Ezra Furman
Transangelic Exodus Aimee Armstrong , February 14th, 2018 14:21

Ezra Furman steps into new territory, wobbles a bit, gets back on track.

Whether he’s covering their songs live or discussing his love for them in almost every interview, it’s always been obvious that Ezra Furman is influenced by the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed, even before you listen to his records; he’s even written a book about Transformer, to be published later this year as part of the 33⅓ series. His 2015 album Perpetual Motion People delved into depressed mental states but was dolled up with campy backing vocals, whimsical choruses and charismatic deliveries straight out of the Lou Reed and VU handbook.

But Furman’s latest record, Transangelic Exodus comes with a mission statement - “We saw ourselves coming to the end of what we were,” he says. “And we wanted to become something new.” That included filling out his sound with expansive instrumentals and varied song structures for an album that he’s described as “a cluster of stories on a theme… a queer outlaw saga”.

There is a lack of direction at times - most obviously on the haphazard inclusion of a drum machine on ‘Compulsive Liar’ or the obnoxiously 00s synth tones on ‘Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill’. Moments like these feel forced and serve as a reminder (or a warning) that the mere inclusion of synthesis does not constitute a progression of one’s sound.

It could be argued, though, that this disparate nature is deliberate. This album is a collection of vignettes from his life, with sound that is consciously more “chopped up, edited, affected, rearranged”. It’s a murky memoir which begins with him crawling out of a hospital bed on ‘Suck The Blood From My Wound’ and ‘Driving Down To LA’ on the second track. It concludes in true queer fashion when Ezra confesses that he “lost his innocence to a boy named Vincent” over an instrumental that sounds like a Ringo Beatles track.

Lyrically and vocally, Furman retains his idiosyncratic charm and edge - especially on ‘Love You So Bad’, a wonderfully kitsch indie pop number with arch self-deprecating lines like “Always dreaming so they call me the spaceman” and “You still send me the occasional email / I got a dumb job working in retail”.

It turns out that Transangelic Exodus is a fitting title, then, for an artist emerging from his early career and crafting a new project that’s satisfying and unique.