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

efurmanpmp

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.

Under an Alien Influence? or The Modern Lovers – Eponymous

modernlovers1

Somewhere between the end days of the Velvet Underground and the start of the B 52’s emerged The Modern Lovers, and their influence would stretch way beyond the world of limited record sales and closed minds. There was always something ‘otherworldly’ about Jonathan Richman and Co.’s take on music. Picture a baby-faced Lou Reed singing songs of optimism and fun while backed by a first rate garage rock band trying their hands at psychedelia and you get the picture. They weren’t just ahead of their time, The Modern Lovers 1976 eponymous record was completely outside of it, and to some extent, still is. Pre-Punk… proto-punk… whatever!!! It is an incredible album with Rolling Stone claiming it to be one of the 500 greatest records of all time.

As for the vinyl, well… like many of the great underground records of the 1970’s, it got great critical reception and sold next to nothing. In fact, The Modern Lovers was out of print on wax for more than 20 years. Of course, you have a few options in the here and now.

The original 1976 pressing can cost you upwards of $150 for a good clean copy in the resale market. You might get it for less, but that will take time and a lot crate digging to find a copy.

The last 20th century printings were in 1986 and 1987 with the German edition being printed on white vinyl. People are usually paying under $40 but resellers are asking upwards of $60 plus shipping.

If you are looking for a new copy, you are in luck. In 2009, 4 Men With Beards released a reissued version on 180 gram vinyl that is still widely available,

However, 2015 has brought two new versions out. The first was another of the Newbury limited editions. One thousand copies were printed on split black/blue vinyl and included a download card. The next version was for general release and printed on black 180 gram vinyl and also included a card for downloading. Both were released in August.

modernlovers split

Definitely worth having in the collection you just need to decide how much and where you want to pick it up.