It’s surely long overdue that the transangelic community – people born knowing they’re illegally angels inside and transitioning with an operation to release their wings – should have their struggle documented in a leftfield alt-pop “queer outlaw saga” concept album. And, at long last, here it is. Chicago art-pop provocateur Ezra Furman’s eighth album (with various backing bands) tells the “half-true memoir” of Furman falling for a transangel and having to go on the run while shadowy government agencies and Nazi gangs hunt the lovers down. Which toilet they use along the way is unspecified.
This romantic metaphor for the social and political oppression of the trans, non-binary and generally-not-slotting-into-your-Old-World-rules-grandad community is every bit as confrontational musically as it is thematically. If the crunchy, lo-fi Springsteen vibe of opener ‘Suck The Blood From My Wound’ could be renamed ‘Gabriel, We Were Born To Run’, that’s about as conventional as Transangelic Exodus would get. From here on in the rusted Rickenbacker twangs of his ’50s-fetish albums with The Boy-Friends are sidelined in favour of synthetic inventions in sound that quite brilliantly merge past and future.
A glitch rhumba road-trip tune like ‘Driving Down To LA’, come the chorus, starts sounding like the bombastic showstopper from the world’s first AI musical. A rabid, percussive slab of buzzing blues called ‘No Place’ resembles Jack White being sacrificed at one of Goat’s voodoo ceremonies. Sci-fi Beatles, Gallic Portishead, underwater Velvets, hallucinogenic Wailers and speed-freaking ELO – all are present and wonderfully incorrect. There’s a sense of emancipation both sonic and personal; it’s with impish glee that this Jewish cross-dresser sings, Talking Heads-ishly, of avoiding synagogue in his ‘Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 At Goodwill’, or that “I lost my innocence to a boy named Vincent”. All round, a heavenly journey.