Robert Christgau on the Desperation of Ezra Furman and Car Seat Headrest

The Dean of American Rock Critics reviews recent indie rock standouts like Furman's 'Transangelic Exodus' and Car Seat Headrest's re-recorded 'Twin Fantasy.'
March 16, 2018, 4:17pm
Photo by Jason Simmons

The self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics," Robert Christgau was one of the pioneers of music criticism as we know it. He was the music editor at theVillage Voice for almost four decades where he created the trusted annual Pazz & Jop Poll. He was one of the first mainstream critics to write about hip-hop and the only one to review Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water with one word: "Melodic." On top of his columns, he has published six books, including his 2015 autobiography, Going Into the City . He currently teaches at New York University. Every week, we publish Expert Witness, his long-running critical column. To read more about his career, read his welcome post; for four decades of critical reviews, check out his regularly updated website.


Ezra Furman: Transangelic Exodus (Bella Union) The frenetic escape saga "Suck the Blood From My Wound" sets an emotional pace the album can't possibly sustain, but an underlying metaphor provides all the momentum it needs—the angel Furman is on the run with has had serious wing surgery and the authorities mean to get him for it. So in picaresque desperation Furman and/or his half-tinfoil lover/confederate hide out in a beach house and spend a sleepless night in an Arkansas trailer park, recite a prayer in Hebrew and steal a dress from Goodwill. Furman remains vulnerable yet indomitable throughout, indulging an appetite for life that respects both its sanctity and its friability. Think of him as an alternate version of your better self. A MINUS

Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy (Matador) In case you haven't been keeping score, this is a re-recording of what Will Toledo fans consider his Bandcamp masterpiece: an associative suite or bunch of 10 songs ranging in length from 1:30 to 16:11 that circle around his teenage crush on a guy who could be a fond memory or an educational fabrication. At 71:41, the new version is 11 instrumental minutes longer; at 25, its creator is a phlegmier, more masculine singer who's clearly not a teen anymore. But he now leads a band capable of rendering his quest in a hi-fi that illuminates both its seriousness and its sense of play. Young admirers reminded of their own existential confusions have every right to feel poignant about them. But so do obervers pleased to be merely touched. My favorite track is the shortest, which goes, in its entirety: "Stop smoking, we love you/And we don't want you to die." A MINUS

Walter Martin: Reminisce Bar & Grill (Ile Flottante) More pretty good indie-rock songs about a satisfying enough indie-rock life ("Too Cold to Waterski," "I Went Alone on a Solo Australian Tour") * Born Ruffians: Uncle, Duke and the Chief (Yep Roc) Cheeky boy-os grow up, concoct tunes to match ("Forget Me," "Fade to Black") *

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