Aside from the music itself, one thing that popular music culture has always provided is a home for people – both artists and fans – who don’t fit elsewhere in the world. Ezra Furman is a cross dressing, bisexual, depressive, observant Jew. If you happen not to be a cross-dressing, bisexual, depressive, observant Jew but want to know what it is like to be one, you could do a lot worse than to listen to Perpetual Motion People.
Throughout the album, Furman references some of pop history’s defining elements: Doo-wop harmonies; King Curtis’s yakkety sax; Phil Spector’s teenage symphonies; Lou Reed’s street punk attitude; Bowie’s retro/space age alienation. This is pastiche with panache, but it never turns into parody.
Opening track Restless Year’s taut bass and tinpot percussion collide with garage rock organ. Furman moves from hideout to hideout: “Making the rounds in my five dollar dress, I can’t go home though I’m not homeless” he sings. Second song Lousy Connection with its tale of “Your universe of blue lipstick and syringes, your bedroom door with the bugs in the hinges” could have been penned by Jarvis Cocker, had he been born in Sheffield, Alabama rather than Sheffield, England. Haunted Head details Furman’s perilous mental state to the positively jaunty accompaniment of sax, bass clarinet and doo-wop vocals. Ezra wears his heart on his sleeve but this is no misery fest. Never has excoriation seemed like so much fun.
Other highlights in an album full of highlights include Tip Of A Match which comes on like Sweet Jane’s trailer trash third cousin; Pot Holes, a song so knowing that it practically bends over backwards to show you how arch it is; and closing track One Day I Will Sin No More which is, conversely, an entirely irony free hymn. Perpetual Motion People may well be the album of the summer. Give it a listen then go shopping for a dress.