by Philip Moss
Ezra is angry. And, to be honest, it’s been present throughout his career. But where his feelings have previously been sugarcoated – under the doo-wop of Perpetual Motion People, or tangled into the narrative saga of Transangelic Exodus – Twelve Nudes puts it front and centre. And this time it is articulated through the record’s brash and – at times – extremely aggressive sound.
From the opening syllables of Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone, Ezra’s voice is pushed to the point where it feels like it could tear at any moment. In his own words, the songs are ‘naked… ‘it’s our punk record’ and he hurt his voice screaming during the recording process. But buried beneath the venomous fuzz, John Congleton’s mix ensures that some of the most carefully crafted melodic moments of his career to date are not lost in the raucous.
I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend is undoubtedly a high point – and probably the closest to his previous work in terms of sound. It notes ‘I’ve been thinking of ditching Ezra, and going by Esme’, on what is the closest he’s ever come to achieving his own trans anthem – for so many years, he’s had The Replacements’ Androgynous in his live set, but now he’s got his own first person interpretation. As well as relationships, LGBT issues and romance, other lyrical themes – religion (Evening Prayer aka Justice) and politics (In America) – so often covered across his back catalogue are also present, making it very much a record for the now.
There is definitely the odd misstep here – namely the melodically void Rated R Crusaders. First impressions also suggest Thermometer is needless, throwaway pop punk – but despite me still not forgiving its guitar riff, give it time, and it will bury itself deep into your throat like so much of the rest of this unashamedly exciting record.
This is not the return many will have expected – over the last few years, his record’s have harmlessly flirted with crossing over – but, given the world’s climate, it is undoubtedly the return that was necessary from one of contemporary America’s best writers. Welcome back, Ezra!
Secret Meeting score: 81