Album Review: Ezra Furman - 'Twelve Nudes'

Sadie Agg delves into the latest release from the ever-brilliant Ezra Furman, an album birthed in the core facets of punk, writhing against today's global climate.

In a political climate where walls are being put up and unions are being left, it is unsurprising that pop culture is witnessing a punk, art-rock resurgence. With acts like Fontaines D.C. discussing gentrification in Dublin and Squid chiming about the search for a future that doesn’t exist, there is certainly a market for the chic, androgynous Ezra Furman to cause a stir with his provocative new album Twelve Nudes.

Photo credit: Jessica Lehrman

Though personally saddened at the loss of the bands saxophonist Tim Sandusky who gave the band a soft, jazzy edge, enabling them to combine and conquer an array of genres, Ezra’s latest work is electrifying and invigorating. The album opens with Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone, a sharp and intense track which sets the scene for the intimate journey into the mind of Furman that the record will take. Evening Prayer aka Justice then follows, which is arguably one of the more memorable, accessible tracks. Though musically simplistic, the continuous rhythm gives it a punk-folk feel, allowing lyrics such as ‘If you’ve got the taste for transcendence, then translate your love into action’ to resonate. Evening Prayer encourages the educated and inspired youths of today to unite and fight for what they claim to believe in.

‘Furman continues to courageously take us on a journey of his struggle to find an identity he is completely comfortable with.’

In terms of instrumentation, Rated R Crusaders and Blown differ greatly from Ezra’s previous work, both experimenting with crashing, contrasting guitar sounds, and the use of breathing as an instrument. Blown’s muffled quality and equal importance of vocals and instrumentation demonstrates a heavy 1970s American punk influence, differing from Rated R Crusaders which ferociously shoves screeching psychedelic sounds at its listeners, with equally ferocious and insightful lyrics to match, such as ‘Polarizing binary is really not my scene’.

As also demonstrated in last years Transangelic Exodus, Furman continues to courageously take us on a journey of his struggle to find an identity he is completely comfortable with, most present in I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend, a melancholy track filled with as much heart and grit as his brasher songs, though the crashing guitars are replaced with harmonious country twangs. I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend reveals Furman’s contemplation of ‘ditching Ezra, and going by Esme’, and his longing for love and full acceptance. If you are unfamiliar with Ezra prior to this album, the Chicago-born artiste is often seen in a bold red lip, a pearl necklace and often a traditionally boyish item, reminiscent of a young David Bowie, the original personification of the Androgyne.

‘There is certainly a market for the chic, androgynous Ezra Furman to cause a stir.’

In the latter half of the album, Ezra explores aspects of genres such as jangle pop in My Teeth Hurt, and 90s pop punk in Thermometer, demonstrating a clear early Green Day influence. The album concludes with the provocative What Can You Do But Rock n Roll, addressing sex in a manner first introduced by African Americans as Rock and Roll commenced in the 50s. Ezra’s ultimate proclamation is ‘What can I do but rock n roll?’ which closes the albums protruding message of dissatisfaction with the world and its current climate, ultimately questioning what else needs to be said to encourage change.

Ezra Furman’s sound and mission has been a voyage; we’ve witnessed the folk-rock sound of Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, to the jangly, jazzy rock heard with The Boyfriends. It is difficult to predict Furman’s next move, though exciting nonetheless. Though if it were to me, I say bring back the sax!