The post Ezra Furman Breaks Down New Album All of Us Flames Track by Track: Exclusive appeared first on Consequence.
Track by Track is our recurring feature series that provides artists with a space to take us through every song on their newest release. Today, Ezra Furman takes us through the powerful All of Us Flames.
Today (August 26th), Ezra Furman has returned with her latest full-length album, All of Us Flames. Expectedly raw and powerful, All of Us Flames caps off a trilogy of albums that began with Transangelic Exodus and 12 Nudes. The record sees Furman at her most revolutionary, detailing a better world that was passionately fought for and intensely inevitable.
“The world is poisonously unjust, they (let’s not worry about who quite yet) hate and oppress us, we will have our transcendent revenge,” Furman tells Consequence about album opener “Train Comes Through,” adding, “Everything will soon change.”
This passionate, optimistic fury runs through each of the album’s 12 tracks. Furman has often exhibited such radical energy before, but now fueled by a mishandled pandemic, regressive policies, and a general sense of instability, the sentiment rings with even greater truth.
For Furman, it’s this instability that inspires hope. There’s an opportunity when oppressors suddenly lose their excessive comfort. Meanwhile, underprivileged communities have spent their lives in various crises. As a friend of Furman told her at the onset of the pandemic, “My world has already ended plenty of times before.”
To accompany such intense themes, Furman fused punk rock touchstones with the likes of ‘80s Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and ‘60s girl groups like the Shangri-Las. The result is a sound that’s at once angry and contemplative, unstable and methodical. It’s the sound of Furman recognizing the continuing injustices, but confident that change is coming.
“Change goes on in semi-darkness/ Long shadows in the alley at dawn,” Furman sings on “Throne.” “Those who sow will soon harvest/ Those who rule will soon be leaving the throne.”
Check out All of Us Flames below, followed by Furman’s track by track breakdown of the record. Furman will also be hitting the road this fall; pick up tickets via Ticketmaster.
“Train Comes Through”:
A messianic sort of vision-song, in a long tradition of songs about a better world on its way. And also a long tradition of songs about trains. This sort of establishes the terms of the album: The world is poisonously unjust, they (let’s not worry about who quite yet) hate and oppress us, we will have our transcendent revenge. Everything will soon change. Strange keyboard sounds abound as we move from seething patience to spiritual triumph. Something kind of came over me as I sang this song. You can hear me singing that wordless note at the end, perhaps transmitting something much larger than myself.
Similar themes to the previous track (desperate yearning for the triumph of the downtrodden good over the reigning evil), but with more aggression, paranoia. The sense is that we (again, no need to specify who just yet) are a secret society, plotting our moment of vengeful apotheosis. We got Nathaniel Walcott’s horn section (known to me mostly via Bright Eyes) to play on this one, combining with the on-the-beat pulse to provide an almost military feel. The chorus is based on a line from a Vaclav Havel essay, “The Power of the Powerless,” which is about dissent against an all-encompassingly oppressive power structure.
“Dressed in Black”:
My tribute to sixties girl groups including but not limited to the Shangri-Las, who also have a song called “Dressed in Black.” Sam the drummer wrote the verse chords and melody and sent it to me, and I turned it into this insurgent little love song. I was trying to bring out the element of teen pop that always seemed to contain a drive to destroy the whole adult world, to escape the grown-ups who will never understand the young lovers and to make a mad dash toward freedom.
In my version, the kids have knives and guns and keep silent as they plot their flight. We tried it in a very 1960s musical arrangement at first, but I found myself wanting more aggression, so we played it very heavy with lots of distortion. Debbie and Shannon sing beautifully on it, giving it that dark-light combination that always makes my heart beat fast.
“Forever in Sunset”:
This is another song that came from a chord progression and riff that Sam the drummer recorded and emailed to me. It’s perhaps what life is like after you’ve escaped from whatever prison you had to break out of. Lovers on the run. The idea being that, when it feels like the world is ending, it doesn’t actually end; if you survive you have to keep going, you have to take care of each other.
This is kind of how I feel about life in 2022, as human civilization seems to structurally falter. Or at least fundamentally fail certain people and communities. Again, John Congleton’s magical collection of keyboards figures in heavily, with my bandmate Ben Joseph knowing exactly what to do with them.
“Book Of Our Names”:
This song is very spiritually honest. It is meant as a call to honor individual human dignity in an empire that disregards and desecrates it. I think of murdered Jews and trans people, but also of everyone left behind and harmed by our society’s amoral hyper-capitalist police state. The book of Exodus is the biggest influence here, but also the Black Lives Matter movement (in particular the ritual and political call to “Say their names”) and the dreamy, weary prophetic mode of Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy.
I love the sound of it, which was arrived at very collaboratively between the bandmembers and producer John Congleton. It doesn’t sound quite like anything I’ve heard.
“Point Me Toward the Real”:
Here we have a story about getting picked up at the hospital by a friend, trying to figure out where you want to spend the night and what you want to do with your life in the wake of a crisis. It’s a song of post-traumatic healing and leaning toward a more honest future, which seems very apt for the early 2020s. It sounds like ’80s Leonard Cohen does “Dusty in Memphis,” with me and my near-whisper out front. It took me a long time to write it.
“Lilac & Black”:
In summer 2020, it was dawning on me that we trans women are like an international secret gang. Or we could be. So I wrote this theme song for us, and gave us some gang colors: lilac and black. The stakes are high for us; it’s very often life-and-death stuff. When I see other trans women our eyes meet and even if we don’t talk, we know we are on some level bound to look out for each other.
And summer 2020, as you may remember, was a violent summer. We were all talking about violence, whether and when it was justified, what role it might play or not play in positive social change. I don’t have easy answers to those questions, and I am a peaceful person. But I know that trans women face violence and oppression, and we have the right to defend ourselves and one another when we are attacked. With this song I wanted to show solidarity in the fiercest terms I could.
“Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club”:
It is a queer trope to fixate on a pop culture figure or fictional character and pin one’s whole world on their aesthetic and aura. This is what I’ve done with Ally Sheedy’s Alison in The Breakfast Club, a movie I’ve seen dozens of times. I am so attached to her wounded defiance and her combination of joy and fury. I know it’s kind of funny but this might be the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever written.
That’s how a lot of our feelings work in the age of media hyper-exposure: Some of our most emotional moments are filtered through a character, a movie set, a screen. Which may also be the reason for the fuzzy crackling production, here. I like how it sounds like the score for a bad TV movie playing on a bad TV.
“Poor Girl A Long Way From Heaven”:
The title’s a nod to the old blues song “Poor Girl A Long Way From Heaven,” which I first heard done by Mississippi Fred McDowell, but the direct influences are more Du Blonde and the Silver Jews and St. Vincent and Beck. It’s the same upward yearning from other parts of the album, but in a different mood. Sarcastic and wounded like a lot of my favorite bands from the nineties. I like trying to write pop songs about nearly meeting God.
“Temple of Broken Dreams”:
There’s a lot packed into this tune. I think I was writing it for a year or so. It’s another song imagining a community united not by geography or any structure, but rather a conceptual alignment; a hymn for those who don’t belong anywhere, this “scattered tribe of travelers.” Which is kind of the idea of the Jewish people, who used to have a central Temple but are now dispersed. I think this one’s got some of my better aphorisms in it.
“I Saw the Truth Undressing”:
A little short story that feels like a dream. Writing it felt like having a dream. It resists direct explanation. I love the rising sense of gorgeous chaos at the end, a beauty that almost seems like it’s going to drown you. Once again my bandmates (and producer John Congleton) turned a song I liked into a track I absolutely love. The horns and additional singers (Debbie and Shannon again) help, too.
This one took more than three years to finish. It’s a very intense song for me, very emotionally raw. I used some specific real-life experiences of unwanted sexual attention I’ve gotten on the street as a way into talking about queer desperation. As the bridge suggests, Pride flags and corporate LGBT promotions don’t do very much for queer people who are poor or without healthcare or catastrophically lonely or otherwise at risk.
It’s a complex picture of those left behind by queer liberation, or the parts of ourselves we forget to take care of. I’m referencing Psalm 34 in the refrain: “God is close to the broken hearted.” It kind of loops back into the album’s opening track, where “a broken heart’s your ticket.” It’s a prayer that such a thing could be true, a tremulous request.