Ezra Furman – ‘Twelve Nudes’ review

An invigorating call-to-arms, the provocative Chicago punk's new record is a quick-and-dirty about-turn from last year's epic 'Transangelic Exodus'

Ezra Furman’s last album, 2018’s ‘Transangelic Exodus’, was an epic, Springsteen-inspired journey through the underbelly of American culture – as he’s put it, witnessed by a “queer outlaw”. It was wildly ambitious concept record about a couple on the run; a combination of honky-tonk rock’n’roll and moody, atonal no-wave that the musician laboured over in minute detail. Furman has always championed contrariness and so, naturally, the follow-up is a quick’n’dirty album of fizzing pop-punk songs recorded at breakneck speed.

‘Twelve Nudes’, the Chicago punk’s short and sharp blast of protest songs, was equally inspired, it seems, by the social and political upheaval of 2018 and the impact that Green Day’s instantly rewarding 1994 pop-punk masterpiece ‘Dookie’ had upon him as a young music fan. Most of these songs don’t trouble the three-minute mark, bristling as they do with restless energy and desperate indignation. Opener ‘Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone’ cribs the “Woo-woo!” from the Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ with bare-faced abandon. It’s an indication that the nature of Furman’s game here was to work as quickly as possible, remixing his influences – founding American rock’n’roll and ‘90s queer punk – into an instinctive howl at the onslaught on bad news making its diabolical way through his newsfeed.

For instance, he’s told The Independent, he was appalled to see “prominent rapists not being punished for their crimes”. There’s always been a healthy mistrust of authority in Furman’s work, though here it tips into outright disgust. “The mind snaps and economies collapse / When the one who works hardest gets the smallest reward,” he seethes through gritted teeth on ‘Trauma’, somewhere between Heath Ledger’s Joker and one of Furman’s heroes, Little Richard, the King and Queen of rock’n’roll. Musically the song encapsulates the murkier side of ‘Twelve Nudes’, its riff a workmanlike juggernaut. This is followed by the bright ‘Thermometer’, a jubilant guitar line tearing through the song as if written by Billie Joe Armstrong himself.

This fuzzy, muddy record splits the difference between the bubblegum pop-punk of Furman’s earlier albums, such as 2015’s ‘Perpetual Motion People’, and the more unknowable ‘Transangelic Exodus’. ‘On Your Own’ is a swooning epic drenched in feedback, on which he implores, “Don’t believe in what they tell ya / Go see it on your own.” He’s called the album “a controlled forest fire of negativity,” razing the way for positivity, and indeed it’s an invigorating call-to-arms for a better world.

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