Album Review: Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus

After breaking through into the mainstream with the Harpoons in 2008, and following it with a trio of critically-acclaimed retro-rock albums, it seems Ezra Furman has always been hiding under the guise something else. Be it college slacker or a ramshackle Elvis reborn, he’s never really released something distinctly Furmanian (coined it), always wearing other people’s costumes. Luckily, Transangelic Exodus bucks that trend and finds him nestled in a web of post-internet textures holding his guitar close.

Ezra Furman - Transangelic Exodus artwork

The album rests on the barest of bones with very little instrumentation. As a consequence, each sound on Transangelic Exodus feels earned – be that distant piano or intimate double bass on ‘God Lifts Up The Lowly’ or tribal marching drums and fetid yelps which back ‘The Great Unknown’. The tracks seem to grab at specific textures rather than ones to which Furman would normally tether them, lending a sense of other-worldly timelessness. It would be risky in the arms of anyone else but the wonky-pop prodigy smartly spools out hooks aplenty to keep hold of those he reeled in during earlier incarnations.

Unsurprisingly for a man who literally wrote the book on it, the album regularly brings Lou Reed’s Transformer to mind, be it through an open-armed embrace of queerness or expansive attitude to genre. Furman crafts a class of his own from post-punk, industrial, disco, doo-wop and spaghetti western and flits endearingly between comfort and anxiety. The songs seem to have written themselves, fraught with a restless conflict; he is simply a conduit for them to reach human ears. Whilst his attitude to musical history lets the album exist in a rift determinedly outside of time, the lyrical subject matter is decidedly current.

Robbed of the crutch of a definite genre, the labyrinthine lyrics resonate in unadorned frameworks. Furman stitches together a narrative tapestry of a desert road film, following an escape from hospital with his transangelic boyfriend. Songs act as vignettes, referencing his own past alongside metaphorical chapters charting the duo’s progress across America. By slotting expository episodes alongside the narrative in non-chronological order, it adds to the album’s hazy timelessness and feels distinctly post-truth. By explicitly addressing queerness, it’s a defiant stand against topical political vitriol and a self-affirming act.

It’s as if Furman has knitted himself a anti-comfort blanket from disparate and difficult sounds. Lyrically, he acknowledges the terror of the real world but ultimately finds some solace in a journey with his lover. Over 40 rousing minutes, Furman realigns his guilt-ridden history with the self-assured present and mentally prepares himself for a forbidding future in the process. Transangelic Exodus is a cut-and-paste album for the dystopian age, scattering undefinable robo-desert-rock over found-footage rhythms (expect horror film jump scares). Ezra Furman is truly divine.