Release Date: Feb 9, 2018
Record label: Bella Union
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Two years after the alt-retro ramalama rumpus of Perpetual Motion People, Chicago's Ezra Furman wanted to make something "more original" for his next album. Consider the job done, in style. Though he was never some callow copycat anyway, Furman's self-styled "queer outlaw saga" targets new frontiers in US road music: between its blistering hooks and bristling sounds, …Exodus sets out for fresh horizons with a full tank of passion, purpose, political rage, raucous invention and rock'n'roll fire.
On his ambitious and awe-inspiring fifth album, Ezra Furman gets political, metaphorical and conceptual. And it's quite brilliant. This is a collection of songs infused with the visceral, corporeal, often outright medical experience of transformation. Using the metaphor of humans becoming angels, hitting the road and fleeing society's norms, Furman doesn't shy away from expressing the pains that this process can entail.
Transangelic Exodus, Ezra Furman's fourth solo album, is the most varied, dreamy, restless, sparse, and cinematic outing of his career. He describes it as "a combination of fiction and half-true memoir...a paranoid road trip...a queer outlaw saga." His protagonist is in love with an angel; the government is after them. Angels are illegal -- as is harboring them.
Few people would feel like they needed another story about 'The Road.' Whether metaphorical or literal, journeys have long been depicted in everything from high art to reality television. It's a topic you'd expect Ezra Furman to move away as well following his last-full length effort, Perpetual Motion People. While he does return to the idea of constantly being on the move, Transangelic Exodus is the sound of leaving in the dead of night.
Transangelic Exodus, Ezra Furman's seventh studio and fourth solo album, demonstrates the Chicago native’s continual desire to push the boundaries whilst remaining true to his poetic roots. Every word and musical phrase chosen carefully for maximum impact. A loose concept album, this high-protest love story is at times reminiscent of the doomed affair of Romeo & Juliet, and at others of a high stakes Thelma & Louise-esque road trip.
Resilience and strength in the face of mounting societal odds have always been a theme of Furman's records, but here they are explored with closer focus and greater narrative depth than ever before. Transangelic Exodus is the first Ezra Furman record to encompass an overarching narrative - it's the story of a man and his lover, a (literal) angel, on the run from a government which outlaws their very existence. Furman lends his considerable storytelling skills to each song, and the album is rich with imagery, especially relating to its angelic protagonist: from the fantastical ("My angel's got eyes like a housing project / He was born inside a guitar") to the oddly banal ("Your loose feathers fill up two shopping bags").
Get film director Terry Gilliam on the blower - this one's a doozy. Transangelic Exodus is a "queer outlaw saga" in which our hero, Chicagoan art punk Ezra Furman, is chased across country by Nazi gangs and government agents for the crime of falling in love with someone who has had wings surgically stitched on to become a 'transangel'. Oh, and it's a "half-true memoir", apparently.
For the past decade and then some, Chicago-raised songwriter Ezra Furman has burrowed his way into the seams of Americana and inflamed the genre with his crackling, tenacious voice. He's not content to simply reenact the work of titanic American songwriters like Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen, though he uses plenty of the same tools--saxophone, harmonica, fiddle, nylon-stringed guitar, sing-along melodies, a healthy distrust of authority. It's more like he's digging up what those big names left behind in the dust.
Transangelic Exodus is a record just as dramatic as its title. It is Ezra Furman's seventh album, his second on Bella Union, and his first under a new band name. Ezra Furman's Boy-Friends are dead: enter The Visions. This drama is hardly unsurprising: Furman has always sought out theatricality in amongst catchy rock & roll tunes.
If 2015's 'Perpetual Motion People' was an individualistic journey into Ezra Furman's fractured psyche, 'Transagelic Exodus' is a call for solidarity; of finding collective meaning in desperate situations. Furman's witty, self-deprecating lyrics prevail whether they're talking about articulating his queer identity for the first time ('Compulsive Liar') or wrestling with the contradiction between being of faith but having none ('God Lifts Up The Lowly'). The album embodies this proud otherness that can be traced back to Lou Reed in spirit and Arthur Russell in musical form.