On first listen, the most striking thing about Furr’s songs is that you’ve heard them all before. ‘Sleepy Time in the Western World’ is pure Lennon; ‘War on Machines’ has obviously attended the Mick Jagger school of struts and wiggles; and the title track is the most uncanny Dylan impression you’re likely to hear (if Dylan wrote lyrics about, um, turning into a dog and back.)
This is almost Furr’s big flaw – an over-reliance on impersonation. When ‘Not Your Lover’ came on for the first time spent a split-second in unreasoned confusion, convinced I was listening to Neil Young’s The Harvest. And the Dylan influence isn’t confined to the title track; singer Eric Earley sounds as if he’s deliberately referencing the man throughout. The whole thing has a real Basement Tapes vibe.
But Blitzen Trapper are smart enough with their steals and strong enough in their songwriting to build real substance underneath the retro trappings. Their sound is quirky, exuberant and misleadingly nonchalant – they breeze through with an ease that belies genuinely strong songcraft. ‘Lady on the Water’ is masterfully understated, all intricate picked guitar and floating noises. ‘God and Suicide’ makes a campfire stomp out of some unlikely subject matter, and ‘Gold for Bread’ races along with equal parts tension and exuberance. The lyrics are inscrutably evocative; when Earley sings “You can wear your fur/like a river on fire”, it’s like receiving folk wisdom from a magical tribe of canine-worshippers. Even if you don’t know what it means, you can be pretty sure it refers to something universal and poignant.
After Wild Mountain Nation, its giddly, eclectic predecessor, Furr sounds altogether more considered. If Wild Mountain Nation was a Summer record, Furr is an Autumn album, all sunlight through brown leaves and smoke in the air. Let it give you some furry warmth for the winter months.
Words: Carey Davies
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