If Ezra Furman's first album was his The Times They Are A-Changin', his second is his Highway 61 Revisited. More amped up this time around and more band-oriented than before, instead of acting like an expansion to add flair to songs that Furman wrote on his acoustic, the Harpoons are an integral background component. Along with the band tightening and improving as musicians, Furman has also matured slightly. His yelp isn't quite as untamed as it was on the first go, possibly because he's gained control of pitch with practice, or perhaps because it doesn't seem as outrageous in context with the more crazed numbers. "Big Deal" starts out with an infuriated spittle-infused scream "In a trance in France I learned to dance!" before exploding into a frenetic, Frank Black meets Stiff Little Fingers punk nuke. Yes, punk. The punky aesthetic that filled the lyrics of "Banging Down the Doors" (evident by the introductory line, "This song's about a whore I knew in Chicago!") has bled into the music on a few songs here, and with the tempo raised, Furman blazes through his lines like an auctioneer, squeaking out "They put me in a cage and they put me on-stage and they told me I could never go home/The government paid for a place in the shade and then my mouth began to foam" at a mile-a-minute pace. It's a new angle showcasing the awkward adolescent turned aggressive anarchist, and the rockin' numbers rock accordingly, proving that the Boston-bred boys can branch out and competently conquer other genres when they put their minds to it, even when tackling the antithesis of folk. But Furman is always at his best when he slows down and connects on an intimate level. "Springfield, IL," "Weak Knees," "The World Is Alive," and especially the innocent Neil Young-ish chamber organ gem "If I Was a Baby" could have fit the earnestly enduring mold of his last album. A mature outing with the awkwardness subdued, all the boyish charm and lyrical finesse that made Ezra Furman & the Harpoons' freshman Minty Fresh release a success is evident, and many of these timeless tunes could be classics if they ever made their way into the mainstream.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover