Hometown hero Ezra Furman is returning to Chicago to bring his stark and livid new sound to Lincoln Hall on Sept. 7 for what will be the second show of a 21-date tour across the United States, into the United Kingdom and Europe.
This tour marks the heels of his latest album, “Twelve Nudes,” which was released on Aug. 30 on Bella Union records. Standing as his eighth full-length LP to date, “Twelve Nudes” is a distinctly raw and irate departure from the orchestral and eclectic rock sound that is the signature of his catalog.
The songs on this new album throw Mr. Furman’s indie chops right into the buzz saw. They pop off like pressure valves into one’s existential ear buds until they give just enough pause to get up and do something about it. In a word, the message is loud and clear.
Born out of a response to the bleak weather across the country and the general ugliness and confusion in seemingly every sector of life right now, the album zones its sonic emergency at contemporary political issues and the ills of society at large.
“The only course of action here is to play guitar and scream into a microphone,” says Mr. Furman. “It’s about built-up frustration and anger. About society not going the way it should be – not to a place of love and care.”
The album was initially going to be called “Climate Change,” a title that reflects the turbulent turn in his musical approach and the issues at hand.
Recorded in July 2018 at Coyote Hearing Studios on the outskirts of Oakland, Cal., “Where the train yards are, on the edge of town, near the tent cities,” the gruesome sound coagulated naturally and those surroundings certainly lent their indelible feeling of grit and furious desolation to the overarching tempo and tone of the songs.
“It was a thing I must do, which is play loud punk rock,” Mr. Furman says of hocking his song writing craft over to the immediate silo of punk. “I didn’t want to do a punk record without having something to say. I didn’t want it to be Black Flag karaoke.”
Apart from the fact that each track cracks wide open from the jump and clocks in at just under three minutes, it certainly is anything but another imitation. The sound is fresh, still bearing the glow of Mr. Furman’s genuine artistry and stamp, but the polish is reassuringly hard to find.
Mr. Furman cites Memphis garage legends, the late Jay Reatard and the Oblivions amongst others as guiding lights towards finding the right feel.
Now all this tremendous trashing and pogo dancing aside, Mr. Furman is also a proud Evanston native. In regards to his upbringing, he comments that Evanston was, “a delicious place to grow up. I was just a kid about town.” Being a young artist in such an environment and being free to experiment creatively was ideal and helped him to discover his own artistic identity, he said.
On his experience at Evanston Township High School, he recalls a time when “I would just bring a guitar to school, wear pajamas and play guitar in the hallway and people were ok with it. The high school was a place where you could be a weird person but still be available.”
At the time he was also a regular fixture on the open mic circuit at venues like Tommy Nevin’s Pub, The Chase Cafe and Kaffein, all of which were major outlets for trying out his early material and honing his chops as a performer. These early gigs ultimately laid the groundwork for building the relationships that enabled him to make the leap from rocking Pixies songs in his pajamas during passing periods to playing his own original music for fans in big venues across the country and overseas.
Despite the endless spiral of wall pounding insanity that invades our news feed on an hourly basis and oozes into our daily lives, why not turn all of that energy outward in a positive motion and go scream along for a night to put the screws to some of those demons? As Ezra so simply and beautifully put it: “What else can we do except play rock and roll?”
Ezra Furman, with opening acts Steph Chura and Speedy Ortiz, Sept. 7 at Lincoln Hall, Chicago.