Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People or The Ballad Of The Distracted Squirrel

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The wheels roll on as I jerk my car to my left to avoid a squirrel bouncing across the road without it giving a thought to its near death experience. I’m not sure if it was too busy to notice me or it simply didn’t give a shit, but it just kept hopping along without so much as a casual look in my direction.

Ezra Furman reminds me of that damned squirrel, and I’m happy about it. Shock, surprise, and from out of seemingly nowhere (ok, it’s his third record… so nowhere is somewhere) he arrives with a record that is cohesive and yet genre hops. The influences are recognizable but like smoke you can see them but never hold it.

His vocal phrasing is like a cross between Gordon Gano (Violent Femmes) and David Bowie while musically there is a whimsical quality that seems to cross early rock ‘n’ roll with the soundtrack for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Add to this the kind of playful lyrics that would make Jonathon Richman, David Lowery (Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven) or Paul Westerberg swoon, and you get an idea of how difficult it is to place Furman within a defining genre box.

He has a maddening ability to be so direct you don’t know whether to laugh, cry or throw your arms up in rage as his observational storytelling is seemingly both turned inward towards his anger/humour, and outward at people who can’t seem to mind their own frickin’ business.

Take “Body Was Made”, it is both empowering for those who can grasp his refrain and angry at people who judge based on body image. It begins with an understated Modern Lovers vibe and then rips into a solo sax reminiscent of the Spiders From Mars as Furman sings “My body was made this particular way / There’s really nothing any old patrician can say / You social police can just get out of my face / My body was made.”

Like early Bowie, Furman seems to relish changes in identity, except rather than do it from album to album Perpetual Motion People is a record that does it from song to song, and sometimes, within a single song. “Haunted Head” deals with one’s own self inflicted torment. “Can I Sleep In Your Brain” seeks respite from torment with a wish to become co-dependent. In turn, “Lousy Connection” hides themes of emotional distance behind old sounds of Doo-Wop and killer saxophone leads. To a certain extent, Furman makes being screwed up sound fun in his unique version of a poetic stream of consciousness.

What you have here, is an artist who is so into his music that you’re not sure if there is any attention being placed in the here and now. And really… who cares? If he keeps putting out music as fulfilling as Perpetual Motion People, you’ll prefer geek dancing over analysis of muse.

On The Subject of Bucket Lists and Bands #1 or Dressy Bessy – Holler & Stomp

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Sometimes you need a bit of candy to see you through the dark corners of life, and sometimes music itself needs to be lit up in bright colours if only to liven things up after a downpour; that’s when Dressy Bessy entered.

After the dreariness that was rock music in the early 90’s and the arrogance that was Brit-pop in the mid 90’s some kind of intelligent fun was needed. No one wanted a return to the days of hair-metal but what could fill the void?

Well the 90’s did provide us with some direction with power-pop bands like Shonen Knife, the 5,6,7,8’s, Matthew Sweet and The Posies, but another step was needed, and Dressy Bessy jumped right into my heart.

The dual guitar work of Tammy Ealom and John Hill provided promise to this music stalwart while Ealom’s delivery and lyrics had me dreaming of the sunnier side of things. Sure they sang songs of sunshine and their tones were 60’s surf/garage/Phil Spector poppy, but they just weren’t being over the top in their quest to relate. Instead it was sunny skies, sarcasm and observational humour used in a similar style to Cracker that had me fall for them. The only problem for me is that they never seem to make their way north to Toronto and they are pretty high on my bucket list of bands. Dressy Bessy just looks like they would be a whole lot of fun to see live.

Anyway, after my initial discovery of their music back in ’99 and then getting the old mail order CD’s from their various record companies and distributors over the years – I finally see the vinyl for Holler & Stomp.

It is gorgeous.

150 Gram Pink Splatter Vinyl

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It sounds absolutely fantastic; especially on a summer day with a margarita, a comfy chair and a nice bit of shade. Which is kinda the point when I listen to their music; it’s a cool escape.

You can order it here. You can also hear a great song from Holler & Stomp below… Enjoy Folks!