The underlying context of Ezra Furman’s latest record, Transangelic Exodus, is a tough one to tackle. Explaining the record, Furman declared that the record chronicles being, “In love with an angel, and a Government is after us, and we have to leave home because angels are illegal, as is harbouring angels”. So far so fantastical, but it’s far deeper than the surface suggests. He declares that, “The term ‘transangelic’ refers to the fact people become angels because they grow wings. They have an operation, and they’re transformed. And it causes panic because some people think it’s contagious, or it should just be outlawed”. Yet, he states that Transangelic Exodus is, “Not a concept record, but almost a novel, or a cluster of stories on a theme, a combination of fiction and a half-true memoir”.
It’s typically complex stuff from an artist that has always been impressive in his perplexing experimentation with the musical art form. The most impressive aspect to Transangelic Exodus, is that it works completely without knowing this context because of how talented Furman is. Throughout the record he spends his time searching through themes such as his sexuality and gender-fluidity; religion and his relationship with faith; and how this all aligns with the sudden political change of post-Trump America, in what is, essentially, one of the most personal records ever produced.
To tackle the issues that Furman does is brave, but to tackle them and to make them deeply personal to him, is an even bigger leap forward. All you need to do is look at Furman’s album covers throughout the last few years to see his gender fluidity and dynamic change in identity for yourself, but Transangelic Exodus explains it in detail terrifically. Having ‘trans’ in the title is certainly not a coincidence, and throughout Furman details the trials and tribulations of being gender-fluid at an oppressive time in American history. None more so than with the craggy, flustered ‘Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill’, where he traverses the distressing involvement of being a, “Closeted gender-non-conforming person”, as Furman puts it so well.
Additionally, and earnestly, it’s all executed with so much flair and elegance. Final and best song on the album, ‘I Lost My Innocence’, is almost a trademark Furman song where he produces a dramatic, intense vocal performance, along with a beautiful 80s-esque synth line while he describes losing his virginity, “To a boy named Vincent”. It’s the perfect demonstration of Transangelic Exodus: a fun, experimental record, which means so much more if you look deeper beneath the surface.
Sexuality is not the only aspect of Furman’s life that is receiving ‘under the knife’ treatment either, as Furman looks at his marriage with Judaism. From the ceremonious, almost glam-rock tingling ‘Come Here Get Away From Me’, which firmly states: “I believe in God but I don’t believe we’re getting out of this one” to ‘Psalm 151’ and ‘God Lifts Up The Lowly’, which features a chorus in Hebrew, Furman is coming to terms with his Jewish upbringing as well as his sexuality. He’s absolutely angry at religion but, importantly, he feels extradited by his faith, as if he’s been left alone. Due to this, it’s an intensely sad album at times, yet it’s also marvellous fun.
Compared to his last album, Perpetual Motion People, it feels like a huge step forward musically. Importantly, his themes come after the music, which feature more indie hooks than a coat hanger. This time, however, he appears to be stuck in the glam-rock of Lou Reed’s Transformer, David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and the entirety of T-Rex’s back-catalogue. It’s glittery, garish and ostentatious stuff, which is further reinforced by Furman’s tremendous, earthy vocals. ‘No Place’ is testament to this notion, with its catchy brass section and dynamic musical migration.
Throughout, stripping away from the in-depth story running through it, it’s a record with an intense sense of paranoia, autocrats and the way minorities are disgraced, denounced and defamed. It’s an angry record about America right now, in the vein of a terrific, detailed and structured album. Importantly, it’s an album that works on so many levels, and will sound different every single time you hit play.