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Ezra Furman's fearless fifth LP chews up sixty years of rock 'n' roll, spits out pop perfection

"Perpetual Motion People"

Release date: 06 July 2015
Ezra furman perpetual motion people
02 July 2015, 10:30 Written by Alex Wisgard
Sometimes the right record hits you at the right time. My last two months have been in absolute flux, as I find myself packing up and shipping out of the city I’ve called home for eight years to try my luck as a functioning human being elsewhere. I’m not good at dealing with change. Ezra Furman seems to actively seek it out.

Perpetual Motion People lives up to its title. Furman never sounds like he's fronting the same band on any two tracks, and the copious, fascinating sleevenotes which accompany the record give every song its own address. In the essay, Furman talks candidly of pivotal moments in his life which he drew on for the making of the record: suicidal thoughts in his early twenties, his rising popularity, coming out as non-gender-binary. Ultimately, he comes to the realisation that "I would never fully join this society; I would always be somehow outside of it...If nothing else, it's an interesting way to live.”

There’s no way fans of 2013's Day of the Dog’s downcast Noo Yawk punk rock will be prepared for the kaleidoscopic nature of Perpetual Motion People. Furman recasts his personal woes into forty minutes of endlessly fascinating creativity by throwing sixty years of popular music - doo wop, trashy grunge, Benny Hill-style yakkety sax, Leadbelly blues and all things in between – into a blender and pressing the start button.

The songs may have homes, but Ezra himself always sounds ready to move; ‘Restless Year’ suggests his only possession is a “Dostoevsky dime-store copy,” and may be the only song to celebrate owning a bus pass. ‘Haunted Head’ details a day in the life of Ezra Furman, from odd breakfast routines and “aimless drives from two am to four,” to returning home to puke, “arms around the toilet like a long-lost chum.” Turn the record over, and side B even greets you with Furman admitting “I’m sick of this record already,” before howling the most impassioned “ditty bop sha lang lang” ever committed to tape.

And in the wake of the landmark Supreme Court decision to legalise gay marriage, a song like ‘Body Was Made’ is nothing short of a manifesto. Over a gently grooving T. Rex chug, Furman lays waste to closed minds everywhere – “Body was made, so just fucking relax…don’t let the hateful try and take it away.” - in the sassiest, catchiest way imaginable.

To end this review back where it started, I recall my first listen to Perpetual Motion People - headphones at full volume, taking a preliminary walk around the city I’m moving to. As I crossed the bridge from north of the river, gazing in awe at the scope of my surroundings, the kinetic, almost novelty sock-hop-pop of ‘Pot Holes’ came on.

“It’s a beautiful city we’ve been living in lately,” Furman sings. “Never go to the South side,” before being joined in by a chorus of smirking baritones urging me “Don’t you go down to the South side.” As I stared towards the north of the river from across the bridge, I felt like a cosmic joke was being played on me. Nevertheless, at that moment – geography be damned – I realised I was exactly where I belonged.

Embrace it. Despite Furman’s own insecurities and wanderlust, Perpetual Motion People sounds like home.

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