Posted by Sasha Geffen
There's a ferocity that tears through the length of Mysterious Power, crackling in the soundwaves no matter on what tone or tempo the album rests. Ezra Furman takes the helm of the Harpoons quartet with a brazen command of pathos, belting unapologetically about heartbreak, loneliness and suicide. Whether he's blasting a frenetic monotone bark or settling into sweetly familiar melodies, Furman channels a savage energy into his ragged tenor. He nails a delivery that draws upon the theatricality of such frontmen as Pete Shelley and Dan Bejar, remaining unflappably likable throughout.
Fans of Bright Eyes will enjoy the way Furman spikes bluegrass with his own mania on the charmingly pastoral "Don't Turn Your Back on Love" and "Wild Rosemarie." Those nostalgic for '80s punk will be pleased with "Too Strung Out," a dead ringer for the Buzzcocks or Dead Kennedys. The rest of the record tends to fall between those extremes, muscling past the vintage into a fresh and furious sound. Furman drives home "I Killed Myself But I Didn't Die," a wry and unforgiving suicide attempt recap, with the same survivor's rage once heard on Bright Eyes's epic "Let's Not Shit Ourselves." One might hear traces of Crooked Fingers in the saloon piano on the title track, while "Hard Time in a Terrible Land," a wild rockabilly stomp, echoes the vintage swagger of Nick Cave at his most raucous.
Despite all the energy, all the anger and the rickety falsetto, Furman insists lyrically that he is "nothing but a boy in [his] room." Musically, Furman and Harpoons reach undeniable heights, but all the while Furman grounds himself with a particular humility. It keeps the songs from edging into the grandiose and carves out an instant connection between the songwriter and his listeners. The album's closing track, the simply gorgeous "Wild Feeling," feels achingly honest in its broken innocence. Furman squares his heartbreak with a new yearning for freedom, opening his eyes and at last leaving his room. With quiet resignation, he finally settles for "no home in the world but the wind."
With a captivating frontman backed by a powerhouse of a band, Ezra Furman & the Harpoons make a formidable musical force. Mysterious Power demonstrates an artistic maturity and mastery of craft that we're lucky to be privy to.
The record is now available as a $12 CD from the band's online store. You can also grab a copy at the band's record release show at Subterranean on Saturday, April 23.
Check out more record reviews:
Briar Rabbit - Briar Rabbit and the Company You keep
A Lull - Confetti
Soft Speaker - I'll Tend Your Garden
The Dogs - Camping
Daniel Knox - Evryman for Himself