Big Future Life is out today (Friday): the new six-track E.P. from Chicago’s Ezra Furman. Perpetual Motion People was his celebrated 2015 album and, since then, he has been busy touring the U.S. and Europe – now back with Big Future Life’s newest single, The Refugee. Following (opening track) Teddy I’m Ready’s big, doo-wop-influenced sound; The Refugee is a more sobering and emotional number. As Furman explains about the E.P.’s tracks “The first three songs are our vision of rock and roll. A madness that overtakes your mind and body”. Furman envisaged (the top half) as embarking on a quest somewhere new. The second side, where The Refugee features, is a more affecting and bruising listen – tender and heart-baring.
With regards The Refugee’s inspiration; Furman told Consequence of Sound: “… my first song entirely concerned with my Jewish background and present, a song dedicated to my grandfather who fled the Nazis as well as to all of the refugees desperate for a home today”. The Refugee starts with little fanfare and is stuffed full of story and narrative evocativeness. The song’s subject (Furman’s grandfather perhaps?) is traversing “frosty green Poland” and looking for safe haven – befuddled, tormented and aghast at the situation he finds himself in. In spite of the stark and barren-wasteland-set lyrics; Furman’s acoustic strum and considered vocal ensures it is not too heavy and shocking: allowing gravitas and respect to shine throughout. As the hero burns like “a thorn bush” and is cast to the hot countryside – the song keeps building its momentum and intrigue.
Reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan (circa-1962); you are transported back to the early-‘60s folk movement. Furman handles The Refugee with a huge amount of skill, grace, and intelligence. There are a lot of ideas and movements but you are always gripped and follow him – there is never a sense of suffocation. Before The Refugee comes to its end: the lyrics cast a wider net to reflect everyone; not just about Furman’s grandfather. As he says himself: “May all the wanderers find the homes they seek, and may those with power welcome them as fellow citizens of humanity.”
Furman plays Green Man Festival on 21st and will finish up his U.K. stay with performances at Reading and Leeds – before heading to Europe and Africa. Big Future Life is a welcome return from Ezra Furman and, as The Refugee shows, he is one of the most talented and varied songwriters in music. A stunning, compelling narrative is matched with a simple but driving composition; a heartfelt, pitch-perfect vocal: you listen to the song and are transported; stunned and affected by every word. Few songs this year will hit you as hard.