Punk’s Not Dead! Ezra Furman On Some 21st Century Essentials

"Here we go, readers. Seven tracks of punk rock from our century..."

Ezra Furman is constantly changing, constantly reacting to the circumstances we find ourselves in as a society.

His work can move from the personal to the political, but it always pursues singular aims, defined by a songwriter who has fought to claim sharply-defined independence.

New album 'Twelve Nudes' is out now on Bella Union, and – loosely speaking – it's a punk record, one that bristles with a raw, vital, counter-cultural energy.

It's also a record that constantly looks ahead, one which refuses to be drawn into the arguments of the past.

Instead, Ezra Furman grapples with issues of the present, in order to carve out a path to the future.

Here, the songwriter picked out seven tracks that inspire him, seven nuggets of punk rock fury from the 21st century…

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White Reaper – 'Make Me Wanna Die'

It’s taken me a long time to write these little descriptions, mostly because I can’t figure out much to say about these songs except, ‘damn, it’s so good.’

This song is perfect. I am totally in love with the way this fellow sings. He has that anaemic, mad quality that I so crave in a rock and roll singer. The lyrics are so simple and so emotionally direct. “Wipe those tears from your eyes, they make me want to die.” And who would ever sing the word “wipe” as a three syllable “why-ee-yahp”? Only a crazy person. I’m crazy in this exact same way. S

eriously, I feel like this song was in my heart my whole life before I heard White Reaper make it happen out loud in my ears.

– – –

Titus Andronicus – 'Dimed Out'

Patrick Stickles is one of the finest living lyricists. He hasn’t released any hip-hop that I know but it’s clear that he’s a rap fan from the hyper-verbal, perfect, internally rhymed lines. Plus one time we hung out on my parents’ porch late at night and he played me a rap tape he recorded.

Anyway, this manic song is one of the best punk tunes of the century. It’s worth watching the official lyrics video to keep up with his overdriven mind. The second verse, whose wild delusions of grandeur make a beautiful crescendo from “my challengers are talentless imbeciles” to “as long as there’s a law I’ll be a criminal,” makes me feel so fucking alive.

– – –

Against Me! – 'Black Me Out'

I’m never sure if people who aren’t transgender can feel the true power of this band at their best. They probably can. This song of fury at everyone to whom you used to be totally socially subservient knocks me out every time.

This leave-taking from the social scene that tried to crush your spirit is so important. For me it’s a process that never seems over. That’s why I need this song around.

“Full body high, I’m never coming down” has got to be one of my favourite album-ending lyrics of all time.

– – –

The Julie Ruin – 'Run Fast'

I’m not sure how this Kathleen Hannah song stayed so under the radar. It’s a triumph, and a painful one, which makes it all the more triumphant.

The lyrics are way better than they need to be – it would be a good song even if she hadn’t written her ass off, just for the forward drive of the music and the perfect chorus. But the verses vividly tell a collective story of growing up girls in a culture of rape and misogyny, culminating in a glorious casting off of that culture’s shackles. 

– – –

Jay Reatard – 'Always Wanting More'

My favourite Jay Reatard song, which is saying a lot. Again, I’m kind of stumped as to what to say about it. It’s perfect. The guitar tones, his tone of voice, the daft bass fill that leads into the chorus, his articulation of the word “HEY.”

I love how this song combines pure frustration and triumphant melody. I need this kind of music, for my health, for my soul.

– – –

IDLES – 'Mother'

This is still probably my favourite song by this truly great band. There is something so bleak and yet so energising about it.

I have never heard a punk song about how hard someone’s mother worked, and it’s a perfect topic for a punk song. They don’t stop there, though, confronting the rape and murder of women with the brutal honesty that feminism deeply needs.

This song actually scares me a little bit. Joe Talbot sounds like he might tear someone’s throat out with his teeth. The way he says “mother” around 2:48 is terrifying.

– – –

Bully – 'I Remember'

Even if the only thing that happened in this song was Alicia Bognanno screaming the words “I Remember,” I would adore this song. No one else screams quite like that.

I can’t totally tell what happened between the narrator and the addressee of the song, but I know the stance, I know the feeling. The feeling comes through so pure and hurt.

Thanks, Alicia.

– – –

'Twelve Nudes' is out now.

Catch Ezra Furman at the following shows:

11 Glasgow QMU
12 Manchester Albert Hall
13 Bristol O2 Academy
14 London O2 Forum Kentish Town

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