Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People

Gay marriage will be universally accepted in time. But if I may be so bold as to say to gays and lesbians, don’t wait for that time to arrive. Just as my father and his generation did not ‘wait’ for their civil rights, nor should you. The toothpaste ain’t going back in the tube. The tide has turned.

John Ridley

We’d like to start today by passing on our congratulations, well done’s and about time too’s to the United States of America on their decision to legalise gay marriage. Of course we can’t be that smug when it’s only been legal  here in the Britain for just over a year, but none the less these are a truly momentous pair of occasions in the history of the gay-rights movement.

Of course, as was so wonderfully pointed out by Jim Obergefell, “it is my hope that gay marriage will soon be a thing of the past and from this day it will simply be marriage.” Which ties into a point that is increasingly becoming a more mainstream opinion, that gender, rather than just sexuality, are fluid spectra; that the concepts of male and female are as much social constructs as they are genetic differences.  Trans, queer, bi-sexual, are all just tags that for some bizarre reason we still decide to label people with, rather than just accepting people are people and letting them do whatever the heck they want to do with their own life, and ensuring they have the right to do so.

A few weeks back Ezra Furman wore a dress on national TV, and someone tweeted Ezra Furman wins my “worst ever” award by a country mile, lad’s got issues too, he’s all done up in his big sister’s gear with pearls and things”  which reminds us that as far as we’ve come, we’ve still got a long, long way to go!


Ezra Furman is almost certainly the greatest orthodox Jewish, bi-sexual, “gender-wobbly” rock star the world has ever seen. This might also make him the greatest rock star the world has ever seen too! His live shows are rightly becoming the stuff of legends. We first saw Ezra at last years End Of The Road, he appeared nervous, self-deprecating, almost flighty, but at the same time utterly compelling. He fluctuated from looking shocked anyone was there, to strutting around the stage like he’d been at it as long as Mick Jagger and learnt twice as many moves. Early this year at a more intimate show at The Lexington, we saw a more buoyant Ezra, climbing the stage, falling in heap and bending his guitar lead sideways, and generally train-wrecking his way through what was probably the best, and certainly the most joyous set we’ve seen this year. He showcased many of the tracks that make up Perpetual Motion People, his third solo album since parting company with The Harpoons, and they sounded unsurprisingly fantastic.

Musically Perpetual Motion People is the most varied and accomplished album Ezra has released so far. His work in collaboration with regular backing band, The Boyfriends, seems to have lifted his songwriting still further from the norm, taking the glam-punk sound of his last album, 2013’s Day Of The Dog and moving it into new territory. The result is that he’s never sounded more like Ezra Furman. If previously the influences of Jonathan Richman, David Bowie and Talking Heads were knowingly acknowledged, now he seems keen to showcase the whole breadth of his record collection. Hark! to the Music is a slice of afrobeat-indiepop with a meandering organ outro that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Vampire Weekend record; Hour of Deepest Need is the middle ground of R.E.M and whisky-soaked Americana in the vein of Hiss Golden Messenger; Potholes is a Dixie-land jazz, protest song for Trayvon Martin and the people of Ferguson and the closing track, One Day I Will Sin No More, sees Ezra showcase how he can even sounds great just doing the most stripped backed Gospel-tinged blues.

The albums opening track Restless Year must be a contender for the most brilliantly odd single of the year. Starting with a jaunty clanking electric guitar, and an almost barbershop vocal harmonies, a ludicrously catchy bass pulses throughout, before the whole thing breaks down to just drums and vocals. Ezra spits out the lyrics, “making the rounds in my five dollar dress, I can’t go home though I’m not homeless, just another savage in the wilderness and if you can’t come down you can listen to this” before a low-strung metal-tinged bass riff slams in for just a matter of a few bars and it breaks back into the ludicrously jaunty Talking Heads like outro. It’s equal parts bonkers and brilliant, which pretty much sums Ezra up perfectly.

Discussing the lyrics and inspiration behind the album, Ezra has spoke of it as an album of conflicts, those of  a practising Jew, who happens to be a flamboyant rockstar, recently telling Uncut, “rock’n’roll had – and still has a lot of important anti-religion stuff to do” before concluding “sometimes religion is a lifesaving and radical and nonconformist and highly meaningful thing. So I don’t really wanna give that the middle finger.” Unquestionably their are times when he questions the compatibility of the two major facets of his life, religion and rock’n’roll, such as on Watch You Go By when he notes, “I can’t tell music from heaven from music from hell” and on Lousy Connection he talks of how, “modern society is my one secret weakness.” However the overlying emotion expressed throughout this record is a more universal theme. It’s the battle to be happy, free and yourself. Discussing this Ezra noted, “I feel the new record is really joyful. Despite the despair songs and the totally anxious or angry songs, the whole thing adds up to a joy.” We won’t argue that at times it sounds joyful but at the very core of this album, it’s just incredibly sad, but unlike many he doesn’t seem to wallow in the sadness. A cursory listen to the album, and it sounds like he’s having a blast; Wobbly starts with a guitar solo and only gets more free and fun from there, but the lyrics find Ezra shrieking, “everything seems so straight , but I don’t want to stay down here I want to be free.” Can I Sleep In Your Brain ends with shrieking electric guitars and big rock drums, a  thrillingly-glam stomper in the mould of Bowie with a honking sax-outro, like a more fun Bruce Springsteen, the lyrics are in stark contrast to the music, with Ezra singing, “anywhere I try to go, I’m still stuck in my own skull and lately that’s no place to call home.” There’s something delightfully honest and vulnerable about his delivery, never more so than Watch You Go By, all buzzing Hammond’s and meandering clarinets, there’s shades of a more flamboyant Bill Callahan, as he sings lyrics about how “it’s fine being drunk at the weekend, but it’s finer being drunk all week” before the albums central and most heart-wrenching line, “I’ve got a bright future in music, as long as I never find true happiness” it’s a real punch in the gut of a lyric, as you realise just how much a performer is giving you, and sacrificing to entertain.

Ezra has spoke of leaving music behind, settling down having children and going back to studying at a Jewish school. Though it’s clear that his mind works quicker than he could ever hope to, his desperate search for some sort of resolution in his life seems like it’d never really stop; perhaps summed up best on Haunted Head, “I was born this way, I’ll die this way.” Let’s hope for music’s sake he never changes, and sticks at rock’n’roll; maybe that’s the reason he was put on this planet in the first place – and if he decides he’s done with the whole music thing, well at least he’s left one of the finest records you’re likely to ever hear to remember him by.

Perpetual Motion People is out via Bella Union on July 7th. Ezra Furman tours the UK in July before returning in October, including a show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

6 thoughts on “Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s