By D.A. Dellechiaie
BU News Service
“Transangelic Exodus” is Ezra Furman’s second solo album and it’s impossible to categorize—on purpose.
Is it a indie rock album or an edgy pop album? Is it lo-fi/garage band or masterfully constructed in a studio? Does Furman sound like Neil Young or Elton John? Do his lyrics remind us of Sylvia Plath or Jean Genet?
The answer is all and none. Furman, in his quest to create a non-binary album full of discontent. has created a discordant tour through a mechanic’s garage that doubles as a studio.
“Suck the Blood from My Wound “ drops us in medias res into a confusing story about an angel, or Furman, or both.
The line “I woke up bleeding in the crock of a tree” starts us off and soon we are hearing a confusing story. Even when I read the lyrics for the album, I still got confused as to what the story is. This is not a story or concept album. You don’t have to follow it and I felt no urge to. The song itself leaves you expecting more from it and hoping the album will satisfy the longing it creates.
“God Lifts Up the Lowly” melds together well. The bass beats like an officer knocking at your door. God seems to have abandoned Furman but his faith in something is still alive.
“No Place” sounds like a lo-fi polemic poetry slam mixed with a cartoon theme song. Furman ain’t happy with the world, but ain’t we all pretty upset with it too?
“The Great Unknown” is the theoretical and mildly optimistic accompaniment to “no place.” The main sound is tribal drums. The feeling is very kumbaya. Sadly the whole song feels cliched. The message of the song is, ‘We are all screwed so let’s get together and do something!’ It’s a great message but doesn’t make it a great song.
Lo-fi vocals with some high quality instrument backing tracks work for the first few songs, but by the middle of the album, the instruments, sound effects and the vocals become unpleasantly divided.
Besides their structural similarities, every song off the album stands on its own. Not like singles but rather like a museum gallery show.
“Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill” is a day in the life of Furman. You can understand his anxiety and feelings, but then the song ends with religious cliches and you frown.
“From a Beach House” reminded me of the second part of “To The Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf. The whole section is written like a time lapse. Slowly, the Ramsays’ summer home decays due to World War I and a slew of deaths in the Ramsay family. Furman’s lyrics tell us of the winter of our lives through the beach house.
We all have those memories of a warm in our heads but these memories grow cold when we think about them in context with our present.
While a lot of lyrics are pure poetry, a majority of them are too personal. They feel like I am listening to a string of inside jokes or random lines from a diary. The whole point of autobiographical art is that it can be related to. You don’t need to succumb to the use of cliches but you need to give us something other than a fragmentary list of three-second reminisces.
“Love You So Bad” is the lone example of a completely relatable song on this album. We can feel the loss with the lyrics and the fast rise of the violin.
The use of samples feels contrived. You may be thinking, “Well…Isn’t all art is contrived?” However true, it feels like Furman is trying to choose a backing track while performing. Live remixes are nice when they add to the song, but when the backing track changes and the rest of the song stays the same, you create confusion.
Furman seems to have noticed the above mentioned problem and waited to correct it with the last three songs. “Peel My Orange Every Morning” and “Psalm 151” are truly beautiful songs that capture Furman’s poetic abilities and his talent.
Our exodus with Furman ends with “I Lost my Innocence,” which is essentially a post-coming-out Elton John song. Furman’s loss of his virginity (to a leather jacket clad biker named Vincent) frees him. His exodus from conformity allows him to discover the promised land of self acceptance.
In the Book of Ezra in the Hebrew Bible, Ezra led a group of former Jewish slaves in Babylon to their homes in Jerusalem. Furman’s latest album is a personal and poetic exodus but sadly does not attract many followers.
Unlike “Trout Mask Replica,” the work of Ty Segall, or most of Schoenberg’s work, “Transangelic Exodus” doesn’t sound better after multiple listens. If anything, its glaring flaws become more obvious. But the first time you listen to the album, you are given an opportunity to escape from the chaos outside, just for a little while.