August 30, 2016 Ezra Furman – The Big Fugitive Life (Album Review)
The American artist Ezra Furman began his musical career as the leader of the four-member band Ezra Furman & 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 to become 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 and 2015’s eclectic Perpetual Motion People. After only a year, Furman released Songs by Others – a new EP, comprised by covers of a diversity of songs by the likes of Beck, Little Richard, Arcade Fire, and The Replacements. Fresh from the heels of this celebration of influences and inspirations, Furman follows it up quickly with another EP; this time, consisting of songs that he apparently wrote for his previous two full-lengths, but which did not make it to the final selection.
Released on August 19, 2016, Furman’s latest EP, The Big Fugitive Life, is a more stylistically cohesive affair. In it, Furman’s proclivity for using an entire palette of styles seemed to have been narrowed down into focus, yet still kaleidoscopic for good measure. Despite this, the eclectic tendencies remain as bright and buoyant as usual. The album opens with the horn-adorned Rock ’n’ Roll shout-out and ‘60s-flavored Progressive Pop of “Teddy, I’m Ready,” a response song to Little Richard’s “Ready Teddy,” which Furman covered in his previous EP. Following next is the groovy and engaging “Halley’s Comet,” an angular Alternative Rock track that will fit well on a playlist that includes Sufjan Steven’s “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!,” The Wannadies’ “Might Be Stars,” and The Candyskins’ “Feed It.” The third of the EP’s initial triumvirate of upbeat songs, “Little Piece of Trash” further speeds up the pace of the mood. Its Ska/Punk flourishes may recall the initiated of the likes of The Clash (“Hitsville U.K.”), Bad Manners (“Special Brew”), English Beat (“Mirror in the Bathroom”), The Toasters (“Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down”), and The Libertines (“Can’t Stand Me Now”).
The second half of The Big Fugitive Life finds Furman in an acoustic-oriented, pensive predisposition. “Penetrate” and “Splash of Light,” for instance, sparkle well and could pull some heartstrings with their plucked-guitar Alternative Country/Folk balladry. Furman’s vocals in these rustic Folk tracks come across as that of Gordon Gano when he and the rest of his band, Violent Femmes (“Good Feeling,” “Jesus Walking on the Water”), is being contemplative and melodramatic. Finally, Furman closes his latest oeuvre with the waltzy back-and-forth sway of the Klezmer-inspired “The Refugee,” whose choice of musical style serves well the lyrics, which, according to Furman himself, is an ode to his Jewish background. It shows also that despite his stylistic restraint in his approach to this new offering, Furman is still able to express his playfulness; and his confidence to toy with his aural palette could never really be suppressed.
The Big Fugitive Life is a sneak peek into whatever bigger sonic landscape the quirky artist is currently painting and will surely soon unleash. CrypticRock gives Ezra Furman’s new album 4 out of 5 stars.