Frenetic Chicago songman Ezra Furman returns with Perpetual Motion People, his third solo LP and first for British indie Bella Union. Since disbanding his former group the Harpoons in 2011, Furman has worked in an array of mediums, from the edgy, introspective folk-pop of his 2012 solo debut The Year of No Returning to the nervy, '50s-tinged punk of his follow-up Day of the Dog. On his third outing, the simmering stew of influences that has followed him around (the Modern Lovers, Velvet Underground, Violent Femmes, etc.) whirl together in a blur of color as he finally goes off the deep end in the best of ways. With an almost manic energy and a rush of invention, he dials up the melodies, hooks, and rhythms, and shines his weird creativity full-bore on a set of songs that ripple with excitement, danger, and fun. Backed by his solo band the Boyfriends, whose sax player Tim Sandusky is also producer here, Furman finally embraces and fully celebrates his perpetual outsider status, turning it into something desirable and bold. In a snarl falling somewhere between Gordon Gano, Dan Bejar, and John Lennon, he delivers lines like "Makin' the rounds in my five dollar dress, I can't go home though I'm not homeless, I'm just another savage in the wilderness, and if you can't calm down you can listen to this" from the marvelously spiky opener "Restless Year." Donning a dress, lipstick, and a baseball cap on the album's cover, he plays on gender fluidity, anxiety, sin, and any manner of self-expression that seems to dart through his brain, turning songs like "Hark! To the Music" and "Body Was Made" into rallying cries for misfits of any ilk. Musically, the album's most common thread is classic doo wop, with plenty of sock hop sax solos and at least half of the songs sporting some sort of "ooh la," "sha-lang," or "shoo-doo" to offset Furman's brazen barks. The whole album feels like a journey through his emotional chaos, and fittingly, he provides a hand-drawn map of Chicago in the liner notes assigning a Windy City street address to each song, like a cathartic field guide to their place of origin. If you're willing to get on board with Ezra Furman and the beautifully messy world that he celebrates here, Perpetual Motion People is a ride worth taking.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger