Ezra Furman – We Are All Flames
Many artists openly protest their categorization into genres, while many others quietly take offense to it, but on five albums since 2012, Ezra Furman shamelessly channeled the rock’n’roll classicism of Reed, Dylan, Young and particularly) Springsteen, while reallocating its power to a single end. Looking ahead to the 2013 breakthrough, the turmoil The day of the dog, Furmanwho came out as a trans woman last year, said her ambition was to be like Elvis, holly buddy Where Patti Smithand though solo identity as a bandleader was on his mind there, not fame, with the blaze We all flame she puts herself in the spotlight.
It follows 2019 twelve nudes and the previous year Transangelic exodus and even though it wasn’t planned as part of a trilogy, when the new LP was finished Furman noticed that she had intuitively developed the themes explored on those earlier records – a very real institutional threat and the active oppression of minority communities, including her own. The title is taken from the single “Book of Our Names”, whose springboard was the second book of the Hebrew Bible. He see Furman demanding a space where the excluded of society can declare themselves freely and in complete safety: “I want there to be a book of our names/None of them missing, none quite the same/None of us ashes, we’re all flames”. Squint and it could be a Springsteen lyrical, but on this album Furman translated his politico-personal perspective on how each of us could create the kind of society we want to be in and find a role to play in it, into his own faith-based yet supremely humane (Jewish) survival manual . It is religious, not political, belief that fuels the livid compassion and provocative, collectivist spirit of these 12 new songs.
Much of the record was written at the start of the pandemic, when Furman drove around Massachusetts looking for a quiet refuge from his crowded home, randomly parking and writing in his car. Produced by John Congleton, it flexes some of the same muscles as by Sharon Van Etten Remind me tomorrow and by Angel Olsen All mirrors, roaring with emotional truth and transformative power, against all odds. Single speaker “Forever at Sunset” is the exemplary, and with its road credentials, contrasting dynamics and breathtaking vocal intensity, too Furman’s Boss-iest tune yet. The opening of the set, however, is “The Train Passes”a synth-pop anthem with a slow build to the urgency of the juggernaut, as befits a metaphor for seismic shift:”But a great machine can suddenly break down if someone takes a little screw out / And solid things will move in all directions as the train passes”. “Throne” is next, with its bluesy drama, horns and unexpected nod to the 80s Dylan (about his “Christian Trilogy”), but a shift occurs with bittersweet, Shangri Las-like the theatricality of “Dressed in Black”. There’s also the odd flash of sly humor: Furman describes (herself, perhaps) “a haunting, detail-oriented pagan Jewess” in “The Train Passes” and later, in the dark flicker “Ally Sheedy in the Breakfast Club” admits, “Black shit on your eyes, your bag full of junk / I built my world on VHS versions of your face”.
Despite its collective desire for power, the tone of the disc is not only triumphant. With its deceptive sweetness, its well-placed “assholes” and its suggestion of “Comes a Time” given a space bomb rinse, “Point me to the real” ushers in a series of flimsy, more contemplative songs, interrupted only by 80s pop art “Poor Girl Far From Heaven”, which recounts a childhood encounter with God. The last two tracks are the most striking of the second half of the album, both unbearably poignant: the first is the Prince-ly, in slow motion “I saw the truth undress”; ultimately, “To get closer”the tender tale of a brief sexual encounter and the set’s only directly autobiographical song, described by Furman at Uncut as “an open wound for me, lyrically” and “so intimate it almost scares me”.
We all flame is not a collection of journal entries or part of an ongoing memoir. Personal it may be, but the inclusiveness of this title betrays by Furman intention: these are songs of connection and (dis)belonging for – as “To get closer” does he have – “broken heart”, “the desperate” and the “monster[s] with no place to hide”. A revitalized rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack for a push toward lightening the light.