August 11, 2015 Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People (Album Review)
Only after one round of playing Ezra Furman’s new solo album, its title somehow could become indicative of what the attentive listener had just experienced—a collection of songs that reflects the variety, flexibility, and elusiveness of the artist’s musical eclecticism. In simple words, Perpetual Motion People showcases Furman’s seeming penchant for different music genres and for writing songs freely using various styles and moods. This makes it especially interesting for music enthusiasts who have restless ears and who could not be content with stylistic singularity or musical monotony.
Ezra Furman began his musical career as the leader of the four-member band Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, which formed in 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. After releasing three albums (2007’s Banging Down the Doors, 2008’s Inside the Human Body, and 2011’s Mysterious Power) under the group’s name, Furman moved on as a solo artist, backed up by a new set of musicians. The first fruit of that new endeavor was 2012’s The Year of the Returning, followed up by 2013’s Day of the Dog. Then, Furman unleashes his third full-length album.
Released in July 2015, Perpetual Motion People opens with the aptly titled “Restless Year,” which has the frenetically uptempo vibe of The Who (“Baba O’Riley”) and The Woodentops (“Shout”). This is followed by the piano-and-horn-flavored “Lousy Connection,” which is oozing with the late ’50s to early ’60s Doo-Wop sensibilities of the likes of The Drifters (“Under the Boardwalk”), The Belmonts (“I Wonder Why”), and The Four Seasons (“Walk like a Man”). The shortest track in the album, “Hark! to the Music” certainly has that classic Punk Rock sound, in the same vein as The Modern Lovers (“Roadrunner”).
The next four songs—”Haunted Head,” “Hour of Deepest Need,” “Wobbly,” and “Ordinary Life”—find Furman channeling his Country Punk and Alternative Folk influences. The quirky balladry of Violent Femmes (“Good Feelings”) and 16 Horsepower (“Neck on the New Blade”) is all over the place. He threw in a bit of The Strokes for good measure as well.
“Tip of a Match” and “Body Was Made” both have that vintage, dirty Garage and Pub Rock sound of early The Rolling Stones; straightforward good ol’ Rock -n-Roll with a sprinkle of piano and saxophone. “Watch You Go By” and “Can I Sleep in Your Brain?” are certainly for the forsaken lover: Go to a little drinking salon somewhere in the suburbs, order a glass of cheap beer, play something on the jukebox, and these songs are what might embody that miserable sight…manic-depressive, a good case of drunken misery. Then there is “Pot Holes” and “One Day I Will Sin No More” suddenly take the listener on a saddle back to ’50s Hillbilly music, with the latter being a sluggish album closer that will perplex the listener, questioning himself if he is still listening to the same record that he put on his player forty minutes ago. Because of his eclectic musical taste and the stylistic diversity of his songs, as exhibited in this latest masterstroke of his, Furman could be difficult to place in a genre without resorting to the use of commas or slashes; and even Furman himself was conscious about this. He sings in “Wobbly”: “They’ll never pin me down in the pages like a bug / Never classify me….”
Furman had a point, but that is how artists should be treated anyway—let them swim in the ocean of their own artistry and creativity, for whatever the result of such musical adventures should be regarded as gifts nonetheless. After all, music genres may be treated as only guides. The least the listener can do is describe each of the songs individually; and to apply this process to Furman’s latest release can be both enjoyable and challenging, for even the most diverse of music fans will definitely be pulling references from the unlikeliest eras and genres. Odd overall as it may literally sound, Perpetual Motion People is a carnivalesque caravan of sounds both familiarly classic and contemporarily strange. It belongs alongside the works of current eclectic artists such as Sufjan Stevens and Owen Pallett. CrypticRock gives Perpetual Motion People 4 out of 5 stars.