Ezra Furman & the Harpoons
Inside the Human Body
Ezra Furman and the Harpoons’ 2008 Minty Fresh Records release Inside The Human Body seems to have all the trappings of music that you are supposed to grow out of: it’s energetic, it’s fun, it’s jangley, it’s a college band. But thanks to dynamic performances, stripped-down production and song writing that covers everything from ski trips to birth defects, the record pushes forward, never once falling victim to the sound of an opening band.
Without a doubt Furman possesses the same voice that brought “Blister in the Sun” to eternal fame, but he breaks through the obvious Violent Femmes comparison to do something of his own. Furman’s vocal urgency, at times, is such a throwback to John Fogerty that Furman’s rambling songs feel familiar; the energy is barely contained and constantly breaks through the melody to cram as many lines into the verses as possible. But what lays hidden for most of the record is what a talented singer Furman actually is. While he spends much of the first half of Inside rushing so fast that he can barely holler out a line before he’s onto the next, the second half of the album takes on a much more moderate pace and allows Furman’s full range to come out. Songs like “If I Were A Baby” and “The Worm In The Apple” are almost catchy and the last song “Weak Knees” features a flawless falsetto performance and a perfectly placed (but probably accidental) vocal quiver on the line, “Then your heart blows away.”
But it’s not only about the voice; the band fits the bill. It is impossible to listen to a single track without thinking, “Where have I heard this before?” Yes, once again, heavy on the Violent Femmes and there are several instances where one will wonder if this a Mountain Goats album, but mostly the music takes on a respectful retro quality that saves Inside from being too derivative. The beginning of both “Take Off Your Sunglasses” and “Faceless Boy” sound like Tom Petty on guitar and The Boss on harmonica, while “The Stakes Are High,” the album’s stand-out track, is as much of a Creedence revival as any bar band could offer. The most radical leap however is “Big Deal,” a track that would fit into any Operation Ivy set list.
If it has a weakness, Inside The Human Body suffers from a lack of surprises. From the first song, it’s bombastic and quirky but rarely attempts to be anything else; of course there is something to be said about a band that lays all their cards on the table. After one minute of “We Should Fight” listeners know exactly what they’re getting into. The album has forgivable dull tracks (“The Dishwasher” and “The Moon”) and “Springfield, Il” starts to drag around the five minute mark, but Ezra Furman and the Harpoons also show an incredible amount of potential and originality within a genre that at times seems too bloated to ever produce anything unique again. And remember, with all the energy and talent that went into making this album, these guys still have got to go to class in the morning.
by Brian Loeper