Ezra Furman: The Year of No Returning
[Kinetic Family Records]
Dropping the Harpoons and seeking a sound.
When Ezra Furman and the Harpoons’ first record came out, there was a good argument to be made that the scene could actually use a dead-on Violent Femmes doppelganger. In a scene with a lot of yelp, to have the brand of yelp that comes with a blistering sense of humor and vaguely pervy garage-rock abandon was a good palate cleanser and a nice antidote to the last decades’ raft of monochromatic Englishmen in tight jeans.
Years later, though, Furman has the sense to branch out and try to seek his own less referential voice and broaden his sonic palette. No Returning sounds like a conscious act of growth as piano-driven sing-a-longs (“Sinking Slow”), small brush Americana (“The Queen Of Hearts”) crowd alongside more strident jangle rock (“American Soil,” “That’s When It Hit Me”). While his lyrics still twist with delicious barbs and it’s frequently easy to appreciate the freedom expressed in this expanded reach, it’s not exactly clear what the core of Furman’s ethos really is as of now—without the slap-knuckle band and a lot of sonic or thematic consistency, No Returning doesn’t quite hang together as a complete work. While it’s certainly enjoyable in moments, it doesn’t command that you subscribe to anything in particular, and in that sense the shadow of some of his earlier works’ obvious antecedents is lost for the worse.