Praise from Caesar is praise indeed, and when a lesser-known artist earns the enthusiastic endorsement of a hero, it’s validating to the core, whether it greases any real-world wheels or not. Singer-songwriter Ezra Furman has been making marvelous pop albums that teeter between eccentricity and classicism for ten years, but a couple of years ago he scored one of the most enviable rock-star affirmations one can score—the admiration of Iggy Pop. Pop does a weekly radio show for the BBC called “Iggy Confidential,” and on September 18, 2015, he played three consecutive songs from Furman’s early LPs Banging Down the Doors and Inside the Human Body, saying “I really like Ezra Furman. I think the guy’s got something. He’s got a lot of wit and nerve.”
Furman is back with a new album, Transangelic Exodus, with his band The Visions (exact same membership as his previous band The Boy-Friends, it’s really just a name change), and it’s pretty great—I’ve been enjoying it more with each repeat listen. Furman here gets more ambitious and experimental with production, channeling influences from the scattershot cut-up ethos expressed by the Dust Brothers on Beck’s Odelay, to the cosmic garage primitivism of Clinic, to the more baroque-pop moments to be heard in Vampire Weekend’s work. Lyrically, the album expresses a unified theme, which Furman describes thusly:
The narrative thread is I’m in love with an angel, and a government is after us, and we have to leave home because angels are illegal, as is harbouring angels. The term “transangelic” refers to the fact people become angels because they grow wings. They have an operation, and they’re transformed. And it causes panic because some people think it’s contagious, or it should just be outlawed. The album still works without the back story, though. What’s essential is the mood—paranoid, authoritarian, the way certain people are stigmatised. It’s a theme in American life right now, and other so-called democracies.
As he’s both queer and Jewish, outsider status is familiar turf for Furman, and he handles his tales of love, yearning and alienation with admirable, often heartbreaking sensitivity, and that, taken with the album’s musical adventurousness, adds up to an ambitious and impressive work. It’s not due for release until Feb 9th on Bella Union (the label run by Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde), but the single “Driving Down to L.A.” was released in September, and it’s DM’s extreme privilege to debut the new Joseph Brett-directed video for “Love You So Bad” today.
Ezra Furman will be touring Europe, the UK and North America in February and March, and the UK again in May. Tour dates are on his web site.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Iggy Pop singing ‘Surfin’ Bird’ to his cockatoo is exactly what the world needs now