WVAU’s #8 Album of 2015: "Perpetual Motion People" by Ezra Furman

Michael Lovito

Courtesy of Pitchfork

Almost every review/feature/write-up I find about Ezra Furman‰’s Perpetual Motion People uses the word “outsider.‰” Ezra Furman writes “outsider music‰” or from an “outsider‰’s perspective.‰” And, to a degree, I understand. Furman is a gender fluid male living in a world where the vast majority of people, it seems, haven‰’t made up their minds as to what they think of such an idea.

But, with that being said, to relegate Furman and his music to “outsider‰” status is to ignore the universal appeal to most of his work. Because in this era of monoculture fragmentation and extreme polarization, who doesn‰’t feel like an outsider? Who truly feels like they “fit in‰” on the macro level? My guess is not many, and many of the tracks on Perpetual Motion People reflect this feeling of mass disconnect. Its thesis, thematically and musically, is “Lousy Connection.‰” A simultaneous anthem to and lament of being a part of the ever-growing fringe, “Lousy Connection‰Û‰’s doo-wop inspired backing vocals and screaming sax appear set the mood in more ways than one, painting a sobering picture of modern society‰’s failings while featuring one of the better-arranged backing tracks. The doo-wop/early rock n roll instrumentation not only frames Furman‰’s vocals so as to make his lyrics clear but also adds a degree of earnestness to the proceedings. It would be almost desensitizing to hear another muddled socio-political point amid a squall of distorted guitars; by placing modern woes in the context of throwback sound, Furman highlights the deep pain embedded in these issues.

Beyond all this, though, it’s just fun to hear someone make these retro-sounds (which are often played up by other artists for purposes of kitsch and edge) their own, and allow his listeners to experience the joy of a killer saxophone player. Discussing modern issues with this style as the backdrop (gentrification in “Pot Holes,‰” gender identity in “Wobbly‰” and “Body Was Made‰Û) lends it a newfound relevance, one that can make some important points while reacting sweetly with the ears. Perpetual Motion People may not be the best album to come out this year, but it‰’s the one that best captures our fractured zeitgeist and offers the best remedy: passionate and powerful songwriting and, let me reiterate, really, really fun saxophone playing.