Ezra Furman has released his latest album with Bella Union. Transangelic Exodus is a new landmark for this American singer-songwriter. In this new album Furman shifts away from the punk, soul, garage feel of 2015's Perpetual Motion People, which Furman describes as the end of a chapter:
“My previous records were original in their own way, but got classified as an off-kilter version of a retro band” and for this new record “wanted something that sounded more original” and to mark this transformation his backing band has been newly christened; The Boy-Friends are dead, long live The Visions.
Transangelic Exodus is a diverse theatrical journey. The sounds of riot shields and Furman’s sharp tongue build you up ready for a fight, then lay you down with feelings of hopelessness in the face of the inevitable: “we’re moving furniture in a burning house”.
Although Furman has departed from his restless manic energy and rage, his musical DNA remains intact – a thrilling, literate form of garage-punk rooted in The Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman and '50s rock’n’roll. The mood of Transangelic Exodus is: “paranoid, authoritarian, the way certain people are stigmatised. It’s a theme in American life right now, and other so-called democracies.” With a long history of punk spirit and speaking his mind, in this new album, we find Furman has chosen to stay out of this currently politically saturated climate. Furman’s only statement in the current political arena is in the first track of the album, ‘suck the blood from my wounds’ quoting Mercucio, as he screams “a plague on both your houses”.
“The narrative thread,” Furman declares, “is I’m in love with an angel, and a government is after us, and we have to leave home because angels are illegal.” Although Furman states that this is “Not a concept record, but almost a novel, or a cluster of stories on a theme, a combination of fiction and a half-true memoir” parallels can be drawn between the themes of this new album and Furman’s sexuality, which has been an ongoing journey throughout his music career and also his Jewish faith, which is addressed on the record.
The odd cut and paste method of recording, sometimes has you asking whether certain tones were on purpose, and sections of the percussion can be quite grating, but all and all this is a very diverse album, which has a hit and a miss to cover all tastes. Notable bangers on this album include ‘God lifts up the lowly’ a stripped back shivery ballad, Jorgen Jorgensen’s cello and Furman’s voice are calming and reassuring, ‘Psalm 151’ a rolling power ballad, and the playfully syncopated pop track ‘I lost my innocence’ which closes the album.
Crossing between love, gender, sexuality and religion, and singing in solidarity with the innocent, persecuted, oppressed and threatened, Ezra Furman has soundtracked the current fear and loathing across America, while always pushing ahead with his own agenda.