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TWELVE

Richard Youngs & Daniel O'Sullivan

Twelve Of Hearts

    Twelve of Hearts is the debut album by experimental songwriters, Daniel O’Sullivan and Richard Youngs.

    Each song has four chords. No more. No less. They cycle without variation. They never change key. As Youngs sings on Oblivion Riviera, this is “the glittering formula”.

    The music is augmented by an array of sources including piano, tape machines, guitars, reeds, strings, metal sheet and computer. Constructed over several months - O’Sullivan in London, Youngs in Glasgow - only material strictly adhering to the formula has made it on to this release. The result is a cycle of 12 songs based on one chord progression.

    After releasing O’Sullivan’s two solo albums ‘Veld’ and ‘Folly’ and Youngs’ 2018 album ‘Belief’, this is the duo's first for Tim Burgess' O Genesis label.

    TRACK LISTING

    A1 First Throw Of The Ocean
    A2 Big Old Star
    A3 Fear Catches The Sky
    A4 Long Joyful Dream
    A5 The Gate
    A6 Touch Of The Sun
    B1 Don't Hang With Angels
    B2 Oblivion Riviera
    B3 In The August Dream
    B4 Like I Need To Be Amazed
    B5 Remain The Fool
    B6 Twelve Of Hearts

    Ezra Furman

    Twelve Nudes

      “This is our punk record,” says Ezra Furman, introducing his new album Twelve Nudes, yet another incendiary and inspiring classic from the singer/ songwriter/ guitarist/bandleader. “We made it in Oakland, quickly. We drank and smoked. Then we made the loud parts louder. I hurt my voice screaming. This was back in 2018, when things were bad in the world. The songs are naked with nothing to hide.”

      Immediate proof is offered by ‘Calm Down’ (aka ‘I Should Not Be Alone’), the album’s insanely catchy opening track and lead single, bound up in a compact two minutes and 22 seconds. “’Calm Down’ is so desperate, and not what I want to say about the world,” says Furman. “I think we curate our reactions to current news because we’re overwhelmed by how bad it is, and I noticed I was suppressing how bad I truly felt. I wanted music that gave me permission to feel how it felt to live in a broken world, which punk rock does.”

      Furman’s preceding album, 2018’s Transangelic Exodus, was “an angry and fearful and pent-up reaction to events too,” he recalls. “But it was a carefully written and recorded version; we took a lot of time with edits and overdubs. I knew I wanted I make this album quickly and not spend time thinking how to play the songs. Twelve Nudes is a ‘body’ more than a ‘mind’ record - more animal than intellectual., And by affirming negativity, it gives you energy, to reject stuff. There’s more space for positivity.”

      Far from being defeated by a world in turmoil, Furman’s productivity has only increased the worse things have got - and he’s taken up different disciplines to boot. Between Transangelic Exodus and Twelve Nudes, the 33⅓ imprint published his deeply personal, thoughtful and incisive book on Lou Reed’s legendary 1972 album Transformer, before Furman scored the soundtrack to Netflix’s acclaimed comedy Sex Education (it aired in January 2019), which showcased the tender side of his songwriting.

      But all his pent-up energy had to be channelled somewhere: hence Twelve Nudes, which Furman and band recorded in October and November 2019 before the album was mixed by the venerated producer John Congleton (Sharon van Etten, St Vincent, John Grant). Furman says the album has two spiritual heroes – the late great punk rock rocker Jay Reatard, and Canadian poet, philosopher and essayist Anne Carson. “She’s one of my top three living writers,” he says. “Anne had these visions, or meditations, to deal with the intense pain in her life, which she calls ‘nudes’, and similarly these songs are meditations on pain and recognising what’s there if you go digging around in your anger and fear and anxiety. So, my album is called Twelve Nudes.”

      The positivity of negativity flows throughout the album, distinguished by sharp, lacerating observations, confessions and proclamations, with Furman the indefatigable cheerleader. “And if you’re really at the end of your rope / No you don’t take the night off/ Too many demons to fight off” he wails in ‘Transition From Nowhere To Nowhere’. The song’s slower pace and becalmed verses underlines Twelve Nudes’ musical remit - less stereotypical punk than raw, raucous rock’n’roll (as Furman points out, The Ramones’ punk classicism included songs influenced by Phil Spector ballads). Check also ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’ and ‘In America’, shaped respectively by Furman’s love of ‘50s doo-wop and Springsteen, while ‘Trauma’ is molten and leaden like Black Sabbath.

      But in ‘Rated R Crusaders’, ‘Thermometer’, My Teeth Hurt’ (surely the first lyrical reference to “dental insurance”) and the 58-second ‘Blown’, punk rock’s flailing energy is alive and kicking. As the pell-mell finale memorably puts it, given our increasingly moribund and morally bankrupt society, ‘What Can You Do But Rock N Roll’?

      Furman has long sought out rock’n’roll as a panacea for his ills (from ‘Thermometer’: “I got the fever at a tender young age / I joined society and drank the Kool-Aid”). He now lives in Oakland but he grew up in Evanston, a northern suburb of Chicago: at school, “I’d beat myself up for not being a successful, popular kid. I’d lose my homework, get bad grades: they’d call me a space cadet.” But Green Day’s Dookie album woke him up (“the songs were all about being maladjusted, which I began wearing as a badge of honour”), and Green Day led to The Sex Pistols, “and I was never the same again.”

      Fearing for her son’s well-being, his mother bought Furman a book of Dylan songs: “I then thought, I’m going to be a good songwriter.” Lou Reed was another, “devastating” discovery, and from all these influences, Furman’s frayed, emotional brew of garage-rock took shape, backed by bands variously known as the Harpoons, the Boy-Friends and, most recently, the Visions - though for Twelve Nudes, there is no band name. “Right now, I just don’t care,” he declares. “The same as I feel about what gender pronouns people use for me.”

      The issue of gender arose after Furman made a splash with his 2013 album Day Of The Dog (the last album he made this quickly, he says). Finally vindicated and verified, he started to publicly dress on the outside what he had been increasing feeling on the inside, with more frankness in his lyrics about sexuality and gender (he calls Twelve Nudes, like Transangelic Exodus, “a spiritually queer record”).

      The teen angst he’d experienced, from identity crisis to buried feelings, made Furman the ideal candidate to soundtrack Sex Education, mixing older tracks with new (‘Coming Clean’, ‘Every Feeling’ and a cover of ‘Origin Of Love’ from the musical Hedwig & The Angry Inch. Ezra and band also appeared in one episode, at a school dance).

      “This record is political,” says Furman, “but it offers an emotional reaction rather than being specific or partisan.” Furman’s Jewish identity shapes ‘Rated R Crusaders,’ triggered by the Israel/Palestine conflict and its complex web of refugee trauma. ‘Trauma’, meanwhile, seethes with the spiritual malaise brought on by watching wealthy bullies accused of sexual assault rise to power. America, Furman well knows, is balanced on a knife-edge between white male supremacy and the dream of universal opportunity; hence the references to Mexico, slave-owners and US ‘founding father’ Ben Franklin in ‘In America’. As Furman sings, reiterating the spirit of punk rock, and positivity, “Put it all in a two-minute pop song / A really-mean-it-a-lot song for America.”

      “One of my goals in making music is to make the world seem bigger, and life seem larger,” he concludes. “I want to be a force that tries to revive the human spirit rather than crush it, to open possibilities rather than close them down. Sometimes a passionate negativity is the best way to do that.”

      Or, in the words of the fantastic, rousing ‘Evening Prayer’ (aka ‘Justice’): “If you’ve got the taste for transcendence / Then translate your love into action / And participate in the fight now / For a creed you can truly believe.”


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: He's proper on one here is Ezra, smashing through this snarling, fuzzed out swathe of punky thrashers like he's never done anything else. Thoroughly unexpected, but accomplished with the sort of expertise we've seen from him in a variety of musical subjects. Another instant classic.

      TRACK LISTING

      1 Calm Down Aka I Should Not Be Alone
      2 Evening Prayer Aka Justice
      3 Transition From Nowhere To Nowhere
      4 Rated R Crusaders
      5 Trauma
      6 Thermometer
      7 I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend
      8 Blown
      9 My Teeth Hurt
      10 In America
      11 What Can You Do But Rock 'n' Roll

      Patti Smith

      Twelve

        Her first collection of new studio recordings since 2004, sees Patti covering 12 famous rock songs by amongst others Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Nirvana, The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, The Rolling Stones, Allman Bros and Paul Simon.

        Yip-Yip

        Pro-Twelve Thinker

          Hooray for Beck-influenced home recording nutjobs! Jason Temple and Brian Esser are a pair of Floridans who gathered a bunch of electronic analog boxes and set them and turned them loose on each other, like a music geek's version of playing toy soldiers. There's a little bit of Sukia electro-soundscape artiness, some Black Dice beat processing, some sci-fi robotics, and finally a dollop of Suicide damaged keyboard music. This music is what they will be playing on commercial transports to Mars in about 50 years. All these songs have a homemade feel, but also an art loft appeal. Songs are not based on chord progressions but nearly sound effects stitched together over rhythm loops. Favourites are "Big Bass With Platinum Limbs" which has a few lyrics and glitchy beats before being tossed into a salad shooter (or something). And of course "High Heel To Mammal" which struts a weird, funky robotic catwalk beat over bubbling synthesizers. This is what robots will do stripteases too.

          Twelve

          Be Careful What You Don't Wish For

            Six By Seven's main man Chris Olley releases the second album in his 'Twelve' electro/analogue side project. Originally started in 2000, it was intended to be a concept involving 12 songs released as six singles. "Be Careful What You Don't Wish For" sees the project taken a step further and features 15 tracks of neo krautrock and post rock comedown. This album sees Chris getting in touch with his German roots and has everything from beautiful melodic Eno-esque cello and piano instrumentals, through to Georgio Moroder's electronic repetition, krautrock inspired by 70s German bands Harmonia and Cluster, whilst also featuring some of the songwriting Chris was known for in Six By Seven.

            The Number Twelve Looks Like You

            Nuclear. Sad. Nuclear

              Strange, extreme and irresistable amalgam of technical metal riffs, edgy indie guitars, insane rhythms and song structures and spastic screaming.

              12 Stones

              12 Stones

                Mixing the freshness and spontaneity of emocore with the power and intensity of groups like Incubus and Pearl Jam, Louisiana's 12 Stones can have it all. A great vocalist in Paul McCoy (who also appears on the Evanescence no.1) superb guitarist in Eric Weaver and a bass and drum axis of Aaron Gainer and Kevin Dorr that's second to none. The band's debut is both powerful and aggressive, but at the same time seething with anthemic qualities that will impress you straight away. They're young and talented and their producer Jay Baumgardner (Papa Roach, Drowning Pool, Alien Ant Farm)is an enthusiastic fan - 'The enormity of this band is going to shock the industry'. Hyperbole aside this is a stunning debut.


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