This will probably come as a surprise to no one, but I think Ezra Furman is the most unique and talented songwriter working today. Last year he released his first solo album, The Year Of No Returning, and it easily found itself in my top 5 of 2012. His new release, Day Of The Dog, came out earlier this week. While it is entirely different-almost an antithesis, really-it is no less brilliant and enjoyable. I try to keep my reviews as professional and non-fanboy as much as possible, but his music is so amazing that it’s tough to avoid gushing. On the few occasions that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the man I had to use all my strength to keep the teenager in my head from blurting out, “OHMYGODILOVEYOUITHINKYOU’REAMAZINGIWANTTOBEYOURBESTFRIEND!!!!!” But I’ll try to not let that interfere with a completely objective take on this record.
Day Of The Dog begins with a drum and piano take on the “Be My Baby” opening from The Ronettes, with drums here provided by Sam Durkes of Ezra’s new backing band referred to as His Boyfriends. It’s a quick tribute that gets turned on its head by Ezra screaming “All the world is rising up like vomit, fillin’ up my ugly little mouth.” “I Wanna Destroy Myself” is a long way from the saccharine words of the 60’s pop song, and it lets everyone know that this album isn’t afraid to challenge your expectations of what might be coming next. The song is joined by horns at the two minute mark, just as you’re getting used to the punk aggression, that throws the listener for even more of a loop.
The second track finds a rockabilly groove from beginning to end, giving a respite to gather your thoughts and mentally prepare for the rest of the record. “My Zero,” the first single and third track, provides a nice bit of familiarity for anyone who’s heard Year Of No Returning. The nice balance of saxophone, electric guitar, and jilted lover lyrics are what some might consider Furman’s “wheelhouse,” but he doesn’t stick in his comfort zone for too long. One thing to mention about this track-there’s a keyboard/synth that is buried a bit in the mix that completely holds this song together. It’s the base that allows the craziness of the sax solo (which is freaking amazing-like, is David Sanborn on this record or something? No. That’s Tim Sandusky.) to ensue and have it all make sense.
“Day Of The Dog,” the title track to this album, might also be the best song lyrically speaking in this collection of tunes. “If we get in a fight, I won’t take out my gun. You can go home tonight, and you can think that you won. But I’ll see you again, and I’ll prove you dead wrong. And the sun will be high on the day of the dog. It’s the end of the night, and we’re greeting the dawn. On a river of blood, on a plate of frogs. And nobody can judge me, nobody but God. And the sun will be high, on the day of the dog.” It’s all sung with a certain confidence against a backdrop of sparse guitar and drums that really play well with the words.
One of my favorite things about Furman’s music is that he doesn’t bend genres so much as he smashes them on the ground and rearrange the pieces. You can hear the pieces of his influences-Tom Waits, Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly-but it never sounds like he’s copying them so much as paying tribute. Listening to his records (and this goes for the ones he made with The Harpoons also) is like getting a great education in history from a musical archaeologist who’s done all the digging for you.
Day Of The Dog may not be a duplicate of The Year Of No Returning, but they do tackle a lot of the same themes-Faith, love, being an outsider. It’s relatable music for pretty much anyone that’s ever felt alone, angry, lost, or like they didn’t fit the system around them. Ezra does the lashing out for you and gives your unique struggle an equally unique voice.
Released by Bar None records, who also re-released The Year Of No Returning earlier this year, you can pick up Day Of The Dog on vinyl (comes with mp3) or CD from their website.