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Ezra Furman - 'Transangelic Exodus' Album Review


1. Suck The Blood From My Wound

2. Driving Down To L.A.

3. God Lifts Up The Lonely

4. No Place

5. The Great Unknown

6. Compulsive Liar

7.Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 At Goodwill

8. From A Beach House

9. Love You So Bad

10. Come Here Get Away From Me

11. Peel My Orange Every Morning

12. Psalm 151

13. I Lost My Innocence

This album has been described as, “Not a concept record, but almost a novel, or a cluster of stories on a theme, a combination of fiction and a half-true memoir,” according to its author. “A personal companion for a paranoid road trip. A queer outlaw saga.”

This statement is very true, on first listen it appears to be a concept album, but is much more than that.

The fictional premise is that the ‘narrator’ is in love with an angel and that, as angels are illegal, they are evading the totalitarian authorities.

The half true memoir seems to be the struggle Ezra had with his sexuality as a young Jewish boy knowing he was ‘different’ and having to endure societies prejudices.

The album opens with a soundtrack that sounds like it is a sample from a horror film with moans from the darkness until its bursts into life. Recognising that they are a ‘Couple of urchins’ and ‘Will always be freaks’ he drives off with his post op Angel. The feeling of persecution is palpable and the track ends with Ezra screaming Mercutio’s dying words from Romeo and Juliet ‘A plague o' both your houses.’

The album flits between 3 main states of mind, mainly persecution, but also inner conflict and despair.

The first track is obviously about the need to flee and fits in with the persecution theme. But the next one is the beautiful ‘God Lifts Up The Lowly’ which is an atmospheric ballad with rich cello and lyrics about tearing out the tracker and driving using backstreets. This is followed by the manic ‘No Place’ with the line that ‘This place is no place at all’. The musical arrangement effectively conveys the panic. As if weary with the persecution

‘The Great Unknown’ opens with drums with simple guitar riffs. It is accompanied with a resigned crystal clear vocal. This is a really nice track and adds a sense of peace in a world where ‘There is not a soul we can trust’ the implication being apart from those close to us. The last song on this album that conveys the fear felt in this world is probably the best track on the album. ‘Psalm 151’ has a simple snare drum and guitar hook. The lyrics are as exquisite as is the musicality, with lines such as ‘I believe in God but I don’t believe we’re getting out of this one’ and the rhythmic quality of ‘Transangelic exodus on four wheels’.

The inner conflict and angst, within the album and the reason for the feeling of persecution is explored with the narrators battles with his sexuality. ‘Compulsive Liar’ is a dark soul searching number about the lies told whilst in the closet and the realisation that the longer in the closet the more the lies grow. The big lie at an early age is that he found that boys were pretty, but couldn’t tell anyone. You can feel the pain throughout the song. ‘Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 At Goodwill’ is a far more upbeat number, where he experiments. The fun feel is re-inforced with the use of 80’s style keyboard, but the lyrics still refer to how this conflicts with his faith.

The despair is deep in the album, firstly with ‘Driving Down To L.A.’. It is a simple dreamy song. It is clear from the lyrics that surviving the road trip is not a given. ‘From A Beach House’ is a simple painful song about locking yourself away from the world, but this is followed by the brutal rocky number ‘Love You So Bad’, which has been released as a single. Again this starts with the cello. It is an angry song about a love that has left to go to college and forgotten the boy he left behind. A song about youthful experimentation and great lines, ‘Never hang out with the Bad Kids’ ‘I always knew I was Bad’. As part of a flowing narrative with contrasting styles ‘Come Here Get Away From Me’ is a song about erecting walls around yourself for protection, and a tango style is used very effectively.

If you thought the whole album was negative and soul sapping, fear not. It leaves us on a high, with the playful and upbeat ‘I Lost My Innocence’. I suspect that chronologically this is the mid point of the story after the confusion of his sexuality the narrator finds joy in being comfortable in his own skin. He then realises that the world is not so comfortable with the creature he has metamorphosed into.

Ezra Furman has created a unique album that has a literary quality about it, from the Shakespeare quote in the first track, the use of metaphor and the musical arrangement tells a story in 13 tracks. It is a story of inner conflict between sexuality and faith, gender and oppression. In a world where populist politics increasingly spreads division, he has captured the voice of the persecuted outsider and given them wings.

Review Tony Creek

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