In the world of modern guitar music, Ezra Furman has become the voice for the misfit, the outsider, and the heavily misunderstood. His confessional lyrics, which often detail his personal struggles with mental health and gender identity has allowed many who used to hide in the shadows to finally feel seen. His latest release, ’Twelve Nudes’, is a love letter to the punk genre, full of pain, passion and fervour, except this time it’s aimed outward instead of inwards. The punk influences, (including none other than late Memphis icon, Jay Reatard) has not only inspired Furman to lay down some of his heaviest tracks yet, but also acts as a political call to arms.
Of the heavier tracks on offer, ‘Trauma’, with its crunching distortion and Springsteen foot-stomping, acts as the album's rock'n'roll heart, calling out the troubled American motherland while providing some excellent guitar work. Furman adopts a stereotypically masculine voice, which can be heard cracking with anger, as his fury boils over. There’s also ‘Rated R Crusaders’ which features pummeling drums and paranoid guitars, demonstrating Furman’s as of yet under-explored talent for writing mosh pit ready tunes. Equally catchy is the jangly, rock/pop guitars of ‘Themometer’, probably the quintessential Furman track on the album, recalls the 60s garage rock hooks of 2013's 'Day of The Dog' but more grown-up and fully realised. While ‘Blown’ - reminiscent of the reatards' ‘Teenage Hate’ - is packed with so much ferocious distortion that it almost knocks the speakers over.
The album also contains some incredibly tender moments, while still maintaining that fighting spirit. 60s doo-wop track ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’ subverts cliches found in 50/60s pop pop, while Furman takes on the role of the wide-eyed teenage darling, wanting to ride around with the bad boys clad in leather. It’s refreshing to see an artist, not just recycling sounds from the past but using them to make a statement about the redundancy of such rigid gender roles. ‘I was thinking of ditching Ezra and going by Esme’ he softly croons. as the soft guitars underscore the song’s wistful beauty. Evening Prayer’ and ‘Transition From Nowhere to Nowhere’ act as pop ready protests songs. While the former looks to motivate its listener through political slogans (‘If you’ve got a taste for transcendence, then translate your love into action’), driving acoustic guitars and primal drum work, the latter is beautifully pensive, it’s warm guitar and vocal melodies playing out like a teenage lullaby.
‘Twelve Nudes’ is everything you could want from an Ezra Furman punk album. Political passion, ferocious guitars and catchy hooks prevail - this time he’s not only on the misfits side, but fighting forward for them.