Ezra Furman turns existential angst into roadhouse bravado on this second solo LP, framing burnt black lyrics with vamping sax, rollicking piano and double-time romps. Furman may be “broken, wide-open, bleeding everywhere” (per “The Mall”), but he’s still thrashing around in protest. The protest, in this case, takes the form of rousing, blustery, forget-yourself-in-rock-and-roll arrangements that recall everyone from electric Dylan to classic gospel to Bo Diddley (“At the Bottom of the Ocean”).
Furman is working with a full band here, the Boy-Friends, who include Sam Durkes on drums, Ben Joseph on piano, Jorgen Jorgenson on bass and Tim Sandusky on saxophone. Sandusky, who is also the producer, plays an important role on this album, his blares and squeaks and flourishes of sax pushing the negative aside (or at least rushing it by in a blur).
Nonetheless, cut past the manic rock energy and you could take Day of the Dog as an extended meditation on income inequality. It’s most likely an especially piquant subject for expensively educated indie rockers (Furman went to Tufts). Says Furman in the rousing, “Tell Them All to Go to Hell,” “I’m caught in a mousetrap I set for myself/where I sneer at ideas of material wealth and I sleep in the alley and I walk through the valley of the shadow of the fabulous four.” Likewise, the single “My Zero” sketches a perhaps self-induced exile from privilege, as the title character observes, “I’ve gone away forever, the wrong side of the tracks, my blood all filled with garbage, my heart shot through with cracks, I saw her dark hair falling, all down her snow white back, I thought she’d always be…my zero.”
Yet for a record that opens with Furman spitting vomit (“I Wanna Destroy Myself”) and ends with a stroll through a recession desolate town, Day of the Dog feels surprisingly upbeat. It’s partly the musical backing, which is always punchy, always quick-tempo, never apt to linger. It’s also Furman’s voice, ragged with feeling, trembling with intensity, crackling like a downed wire with undirected energy and, weirdly, ultimately, optimistic. “Anything can happen,” he barks out in the song of the same name, which has been, up to that point, a litany of rock bottoms. It’s raw and desperate and, oddly enough, hopeful. Ezra Furman is not down yet, and listening to Day of the Dog, you won’t be either.
DOWNLOAD: “My Zero” “Tell Them All to Go To Hell” “Day of the Dog”