Thursday, August 09, 2007

A New D****?

There are few curses more dire than to be tagged the New Dylan. Anybody remember Steve Forbert these days? So I won’t say it. I’ll keep it vague and say that Ezra Furman’s nasal vocals, harmonica work, and wildly poetic imagery might remind you of somebody.

Ezra Furman is a twenty-year-old kid from Chicago, via Tufts University in Boston. He’s got a band, The Harpoons, and he’s titled his debut album Banging Down the Doors. It’s been out for a couple days now, and you ought to buy it. Today. He has got, as they say, one hell of a Voice. Not much in the way of the vocal kind, mind you. That voice is completely untamed, and often doesn’t bother with trivial little things like pitch. The kind that makes you jolt out of your seat as you hear one startling image and one pithy aphorism after another. The kind that, you know, that other guy came out of the gate with, the freewheelin’ wild kind that cuts through the bullshit and makes you see the whole crazy, beautiful world in new ways:

She is pressing foot to petal, she is zooming straight away
She is swimming in the jukebox of the screaming, driving day
She’s about the age of Mary when she had her wonderboy
She’s an alcohol enthusiast whose dad is unemployed

That’s the way one of Ezra’s songs starts out before careening off into reflections on faith, doubt, Starbucks coffee, premature death, and the peculiar malaise of the times in which we live, all in a neat three minutes and ten seconds. Then he follows that up with a love song to God, who in Ezra’s fervid theological imagination is a middle-aged woman who wears planets for earrings and has international date lines at the corners of her eyes.

These are acoustic songs, for the most part, although they’re a million miles removed from laid-back folky territory. There’s a manic, propulsive energy at work here, and these songs hurtle by at breakneck speed. That other guy once said that he wrote songs so quickly because he couldn’t envision the world lasting much longer, and you get the same sort of feeling listening to these songs. Like Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Ezra Furman sings like his skull is ready to explode. He’s got the world’s biggest migraine, and he spits out his words like machine gun fire, and at times he abandons language altogether and simply howls like a feral wolf. It’s frightening, and it’s brilliant.

I moaned a few weeks ago that I had yet to hear a 5-star album this year. I’ve heard one now. Midway through these extraordinary proceedings Ezra yelps,”This is only our first record, I want you to love me!" Don’t sweat it, ye precocious harpooner. Mission accomplished. These are songs that sink deep, and they draw blood every time.


Brian Estabrook said...

Bought the album today.

Love it.

You're right to make the D**** comparisons..

I can't stop listening to it.

Andy Whitman said...

One of my friends had this to say about this album. And he's right:

"There are lots of people that show up at college parties with a guitar and urgently need you to hear their most recent song. They play guitar like they are grating carrots and sing intense songs of longing and imagination.

Ezra Furman certainly is filled with urgency. He has so many words he crosses the bars, he rushes the tempo, completely ignores pitch, runs his sentences headlong into each other. Listening, you definitely have the sense that he has clocked plenty of time with amphetamine Bob. He also reminds me of early 70's Loudon Wainwright. His delivery is more manic and his sentences are less well structured, or rather, formed without any consideration of technical things, like breathing.

That's it! Ezra Furman stikes me as a fantastic acquaintance, one you don't see very much because he is always skipping class to go to Mardi Gras, or the Craft Fair or follow the Dead for a semester. He travels with a toothbrush, a copy of Moby Dick, notepad and a battered King James bible cause it's fun to read the Old
Testemant as literature. Everytime you run into him he's already 4 espresso's into the morning and can't wait to tell you a story. The stories are always interesting and you can't wait till you run into him again.

His enthusiasm is hilarious! Somewhere around 2:40 into "She's All I Got Left" he leans into the phrase "she don't do that" so hard he overloads the mic with a glee that I haven't heard since the Beatles were wearing suits. The song "I Wanna Be Ignored" has all the manic energy of a car full of teenagers with a case of beer on the way to the lake. I like this collection so much I wanna buy the kids more beer, get in the car and go to the lake with them."

Me too. I cannot stop playing this album, and furtively dancing in my chair at work, which is a dangerous thing.

Adventures with Us said...

good shot and suggestion. Would never have found it otherwise. You know since radio is more than likely ignoring something good again.

I have to say though it isn't the only 5 star album out there. I have given both "The Frames", "Avett Brothers", and "Mark Olson" the coveted 5 stars, and I imagine with a couple more plays this one will be given it as well...

Again, thanks for the suggestion...

Anonymous said...

Indeed. Not much more can be said. I've passed this album on several times already and I can't wait to listen to it again. Actually. yeah. now.

Mermanda said...

Thanks, Andy. I am definitely going to check it out.

I'm anxiously awaiting the release of Josh Ritter's new album, "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter." I've heard some teasers on the Web and already pre-ordered my copy, (which was completely unnecessary, but it helped calm my impatience a little.)

Just wanted to let you know, I moved my blog to

Still haven't decided if I'm returning to OU for Homecoming. Are you?

Take care!

Andy Whitman said...

Hi Amanda.

I love the new Josh Ritter album. He's been good all along, but I think his new one may be his best.

I'm not sure if I'll make it to O.U.'s homecoming. My youngest daughter is starting at O.U. this fall (actually in a couple weeks), so I'm sure we'll be in Athens. I'm just not sure when yet.

Michael Krahn said...

Hey Andy,

You got me thinking... and writing.