Ezra Furman and the Harpoons have released a trio of records over the last few years – all three to critical acclaim. It’s almost no surprise that Furman would branch out on his own, in theory at least (more on that later). But while there’s been no word on the status of the Harpoons, it’s also worth noting that this is actually Furman’s second solo record.
The Year of No Returning was released to little fanfare last year shortly after 2011’s Mysterious Power, his third record with the Harpoons and their most accomplished yet. The album itself was a little disappointing – under-produced, lacking direction. Its personality was reflected in its opening track ‘Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde’. While It was everything you’d expect from an up and coming singer-songwriter, producing in his basement where lo-fi is key and experimentation is the law, his Harpoons background meant that the album simply didn’t feel accomplished enough to stand-up alongside such an established (at least in quality) body of work.
It’s a year later now, and Furman’s giving it another go. Whether he consciously learnt any lessons from the first solo record, we don’t know. But what we do know is that Day of the Dog is a killer record. Everything that had potential in The Year of No Returning is here but in full-form. The experimental nature, the attempts at genre-bending (well, as much as feasibly possible with garage-rock), some tinges of early psychobilly, and the absolute best representation of Furman’s ferocious gravel-laced vocal presence we’ve heard since Mysterious Power’s ‘Bloodsucking Whore’ – it’s as if Furman is finally comfortable with his own songwriting. And there’s a saxophone too.
It’s brutal stuff in places – opening your record with the words “all the world is rising up like vomit” shows all the signs of a man that means some fucking business, but at the same time leaves you wondering what kind of year he’s had. Titling songs ‘I Wanna Destroy Myself’ and ‘Tell ‘Em All to Go to Hell’ are a more dramatic and personal approach than the Harpoon-era, but only slightly. Either way – putting it all out there sees Furman’s work benefit hugely.
So, what of those Harpoons? Furman hasn’t specifically stated whether they’ll continue to work together, but a recent interview saw Furman say he “got a new band this summer” which was to be featured on the record. But when it came to touring, their importance is downplayed so it’s little surprise they don’t feature by name on the record. Furman has said that touring a full band is financially tricky. After numerous solo tours over the past year, he will be, at least, bringing a drummer to his latest dates, but it does beg the question as to whether Furman was forced to go solo due to touring expenses. With three critically acclaimed albums behind you, it would be a damn shame if this was the case.
But Harpoons or not, financial obstacles aside, we ‘ve been reassured that Furman can exist outside of his backing band. Day of the Dog shows us that even if we have lost those Harpoons guys, we’ve been given something potentially even better in Furman’s unfiltered and much more comfortable approach to his own unique brand of unadulterated vitriol.