Ezra Furman – Twelve Nudes
Ezra Furman’s back to basics record is equal parts funny and seething, but ultimately it's his most repetitive work
On Twelve Nudes, Ezra Furman said he wanted to make a nude emotional reaction to the times, free of overthought and studio tinkering. Trading in the more experimental tendencies of Transangelic Exodus for fuzzed guitars with shrill solos and breakneck basslines, this stripping-back has mixed effects.
If there’s one thing that Furman has proved he can do, it’s a scrappy punky version of pop with a very specific careening momentum, and it's in this sweet spot that most of the record's best moments lie. Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone manages to twist its panicked lyrics into something oddly joyful, in large part thanks to Furman’s scorching vocals, staying barking and forceful without becoming one dimensional. Jay Reatard is cited as a key inspiration for Twelve Nudes and his influence is particularly felt on the stop-start fuzzed mania of Rated R Crusaders which, lyrics aside, could fit perfectly well on Blood Visions.
That being said, the album's finest moment is I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend, which swaps out the glam and garage rock influences to make the 50s prom dance song of a better more inclusive past. Its growth from just voice and guitar into a full band crescendo is a welcome breath of dynamism for a record that, by its final stages, begins to feel rather lacking in this area. It’s a shame because, listened to in isolation, In America is a great tune, angry and melancholic in equal measure. When sandwiched between My Teeth Hurt and What Can You Do But Rock n Roll though, it gets squeezed out by their high energy daftness.
It’s always a risk with a 'stripping things back' record that the artist strips away what makes them singular and idiosyncratic. This isn’t quite true of Furman. He maintains his voice, his melodic instinct and knack for presenting raw emotional landscapes without ever slipping into self-pity or losing his sense of humour. However, in throwing himself into the garage rock mould he loses the loose relationship with genre that allowed the twitchy dynamism of his best work.
Listen to: I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend, In America