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Stereoboard Albums Of The Year: Ezra Furman - 'Perpetual Motion People'

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 Written by Laura Johnson

‘Perpetual Motion People’ had already been cemented as my favourite album of 2015 by the time Ezra Furman turned in the live performance of the year at his Bristol show back in November. On record, he unnerved me with his cynical candour and at the same time reassured me with an optimistic outlook. When playing live he was just as contradictory. Strutting across the boards of the O2 Academy he emanated an awkward confidence, confessing to the crowd that the band consider the stage their playground. If they wanted to play, it would be by their rules.

Furman is intent on paving his own way, a well-worn cliché that many aspire to but few see through to fruition. In Bristol he asked the audience what kind of music they thought his band played, permitting a few garbled responses before silencing them with a “hah!”. He then declared that no one could tell him, as they defied genre. It sounds like rock 'n' roll rhetoric, but it’s not. Despite influences from the rock and pop of the ‘50s and ‘60s being glaringly apparent, you really can’t put a finger on where you’ve heard anything like ‘Perpetual Motion People’ before.

One spin of the record made it obvious that Furman had realised the potential he oozed on 2013’s ‘Day Of The Dog’. The hesitant moments that muddied otherwise brilliant waters had been erased. Furman was not half-assing things, he was all in. Every track on ‘Perpetual Motion People’ left him spent. Witnessed live, the exertion is enough to make you fear for his wellbeing.

Despite his endearing self-deprecation it is clear that self-preservation is also a priority for him. On Ordinary Life he sings: “Just ‘cos you’re sick of your ordinary life, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bottle up and die, lose your way completely but stay alive.” The song struck a chord. Having lived with depression and all the thoughts that it brings, to hear someone put something so succinctly, where others had previously emoted to the point of rendering the sentiment completely devoid of meaning, was exceptional. “One September in Boston, I lost the will to live, I was just like an astronaut cut from the ship, floating and waiting to die.”

Goosebumps, right?

Furman’s observations are poignant to the point of déjà vu. On Lousy Connection he encapsulates in one sentence that all-too-familiar feeling of life passing you by: “There’s nothing happening and it’s happening too fast.” He’s also able to turn that microscope inward. On Wobbly it seems that, despite some bumps in the road, he’s in a comfortable place, one where he’s gender-fluid and free. It is his ability to ricochet from insecure to confident, and even defiant, that speaks to me. On any given day, sometimes in the space of an hour, I will bounce between variations of the three. ‘Perpetual Motion People’ is my soundtrack.

Ezra Furman makes no secret of his idols, in particular Lou Reed, and opened the Bristol show with the Velvet Underground’s Rock & Roll. But what he fails to realise is that soon enough he’ll turn around and be looking at us from a pedestal we’ve pushed him onto. We’re making him ours.

Though I’m pretty sure it would epitomise the blind leading the blind, I’d follow him down a winding path any day of the week. Even if the result was disastrous, the song he’d write about it would be glorious. For his sake, though, I hope the predictions he makes on Watch You Go By are wrong: “I’ve got bright future in music, as long as I never find true happiness.”

Head here to read the original album review.

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