Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Ezra Furman: The Year of No Returning [Bar/None, 2013]
Rather than lyrics, the text accompanying this solo debut features a lengthy statement of principle: the Chicago folk-rocker (sorry, but that brutal shorthand reveals more than the one-sheet's "dark chamber pop, tough-guy garage rock and sad, gorgeous balladry") aims for "real protest" against our "globally pervasive culture." Or as Furman puts it in "American Soil": "I'm a Jew through and through and I'm about to write you a Bible." Fortunately, he sets his sacrilegious writ to muscular melodies that get more fetching as they speed up, accompanied by his admittedly garageish guitar and musicians admittedly more chamber-pop than were his helpers in the Harpoons. Taken by the style of anxiety built into a voice that rises in pitch as a matter of well-calibrated habit, I wish I could report that it sang of global contradiction more and romantic frustration less. But for now it's global enough. Furman is right to believe that too few of his cohort risk this kind of pretension, a/k/a the good kind. A-