Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  And It Don't Stop
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
  And It Don't Stop
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:

Ezra Furman

  • The Year of No Returning [Bar/None, 2013] A-
  • Day of the Dog [Bar/None, 2013]  
  • Perpetual Motion People [Bella Union, 2015] ***
  • Transangelic Exodus [Bella Union, 2018] A-
  • Twelve Nudes [Bella Union, 2019] A-
  • All of Us Flames [Anti-, 2022] B+

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Year of No Returning [Bar/None, 2013]
Rather than lyrics, the text accompanying this solo debut features a lengthy statement of principle: the Chicago folk-rocker (sorry, but that brutal shorthand reveals more than the one-sheet's "dark chamber pop, tough-guy garage rock and sad, gorgeous balladry") aims for "real protest" against our "globally pervasive culture." Or as Furman puts it in "American Soil": "I'm a Jew through and through and I'm about to write you a Bible." Fortunately, he sets his sacrilegious writ to muscular melodies that get more fetching as they speed up, accompanied by his admittedly garageish guitar and musicians admittedly more chamber-pop than were his helpers in the Harpoons. Taken by the style of anxiety built into a voice that rises in pitch as a matter of well-calibrated habit, I wish I could report that it sang of global contradiction more and romantic frustration less. But for now it's global enough. Furman is right to believe that too few of his cohort risk this kind of pretension, a/k/a the good kind. A-

Day of the Dog [Bar/None, 2013]
[2013 Dean's List: 39]  

Perpetual Motion People [Bella Union, 2015]
Anxious seeker hires horns to tickle his playful side, also his female side. ("Body Was Made," "Lousy Connection") ***

Transangelic Exodus [Bella Union, 2018]
The frenetic escape saga "Suck the Blood From My Wound" sets an emotional pace the album can't possibly sustain, but an underlying metaphor provides all the momentum it needs--the angel Furman is on the run with has had serious wing surgery and the authorities mean to get him for it. So in picaresque desperation Furman and/or his half-tinfoil lover/confederate hide out in a beach house and spend a sleepless night in an Arkansas trailer park, recite a prayer in Hebrew and steal a dress from Goodwill. Furman remains vulnerable yet indomitable throughout, indulging an appetite for life that respects both its sanctity and its friability. Think of him as an alternate version of your better self. A-

Twelve Nudes [Bella Union, 2019]
At 33, wandering Jew and transgender seeker Furman erupts into 11 punk rants in 27 minutes because she's always had an album like this in him and somebody had to do one quick: "Working people are killing themselves to get by, and they're working for billionaires," s/he's said. With the world in worse shape than at any time since I was smart enough to notice, I don't know why there aren't many more such, though they'd probably be cruder than this--today's few explicitly political punks favor a metal macho Furman has no heart for. Instead, the scratchy, screeched tunes grow on you, and there's enormous variety to lyrics that don't always equate political awareness with rage or certainty and can even be droll--try not only "I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend" but "My Teeth Hurt." Inspirational Facebook comment: "Something is wrong; everybody knows it; this is not the century we wanted." A-

All of Us Flames [Anti-, 2022]
My favorite thing here is the rousing pre-revolutionary opener "Train Comes Through," my second favorite "Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club," about Furman's teen crush on the gal she wanted not to fuck but to be. But on almost every track trademark high-tenor urgency delivers songs that tend somewhat less compelling than on 2018's picaresque Transangelic Exodus or 2019's punky Twelve Nudes. Be sure not to miss "Point Me Toward the Real," the fervent hope of someone who just got picked up at the "County Cook Psychiatry Institute" in a convertible driven by a benefactor whose relationship to the singer remains tantalizingly undefined--especially since Furman is a known rabbi-in-waiting. B+