Blue October | Any Man in America (Up/Down)

 Justin Furstenfeld’s got one of those voices that works across a range of genres, conveying strength, anger, pleading, pain, and acceptance.

 

 

Justin Furstenfeld is an open book.

Sure, in most cases, that phrase is a cliché. But in this case, it’s absolutely true.
As the singer/songwriter for the highly successful Houston rock band Blue October, Furstenfeld has garnered a reputation for his stark, brutally honest lyrics. Whether writing about the deepest love, or, more likely, his inner demons and outer battles, what you see is what you get. The man doesn’t hold back.
On this, the band’s 13th release, Furstenfeld documents the final embers of a marriage, including a battle for custody of his small daughter—a process which he firmly believes is geared to protect the mother at any cost, leading to unfair treatment and judgment of the father—and his emergence on the other side, stronger and satisfied.
Another thing of note: Any Man in America is not your typical rock album. Even by Blue October standards—a band unabashedly unafraid to slip into different genres, including straightforward pop, smooth and sultry—this one is a departure beyond all others. Incorporating not only the obvious rock and pop, it’s also influenced by R&B, rap, and soul.
Album opener “Feel Again” finds Furstenfeld pleading for his wife to stay. Introduced with a lone piano and Furstenfeld’s far-away vocals, it sets the stage for the tale of a man laid bare. “I can’t be anything but who I am,” he confesses. “You make me feel at home/ you make me feel again.”
Next up, “The Money Tree,” celebrates the birth of his daughter, claiming, “She looks like her mommy.” The song is upbeat and engaging, with Ryan Delahoussaye’s ever-haunting violin. “For the Love,” a mellow rock tune, lists all the reasons Furstenfeld carries on: “I do it for the love, do it for the rain, do it for the passion, do it for the pain.” His vocals that close out the tune are simply amazing, gorgeous, fragile, strong, emphatic.
“Drama” introduces the beginning of the end of the marriage: “It’s hard when the house you built just falls apart.” Once again, the singer provides rich, heart-wrenching vocals. The music’s still upbeat, suggesting hope that is, we know, rapidly fading. “You’re not anything I need in my life/ you’re not anything I even want,” he relates.
You can tell from the first notes that “The Chills” is different. Harder, louder, in-your-face. It’s a final plea, an olive branch of forgiveness. Still, he’s found this time that things are different. There’s a strength to his singing, backed by enthusiastic gang vocals during parts of the refrain, suggesting a support system of friends to fall back on.
“The Flight” is where it all turns. Furstenfeld flies to Nebraska to confront the man with whom his wife has been cheating, but finds the guy unwilling to talk to him. The song is rap-based, with the Blue October frontman talking the stark stanzas before giving way to a blunt refrain that holds no punches. Again, his vocal presentation is nothing short of brilliant.
The title track finds Furstenfeld offering child custody advice to every other man in America. Here, he relates the fight he was forced to wage to get his child back. The straightforward refrain says it all: “You don’t know/ You act like you believe it/ That you’re in control/ It’s just your legal system though/ They don’t think about you/ They don’t care about you/ Now every man in America take back your control.” The song closes out with a bracing rap by Ray C that holds absolutely nothing back.
Hard guitars beneath the melody of “You Waited Too Long” provide the song with an angry undercurrent. Once again, though, the refrain is soaring, Furstenfeld’s emotions just barely in check. “The Honesty” is more a message to himself. It’s relaxed and well led, and contains such cautions as, “Honestly, when your heart decides to let someone in/ just be cautious of the next one.” Acceptance figures prominently into “The Get Over It Part.” It’s mellow and controlled, finding Furstenfeld well past moving on. Again, a group chorus makes an appearance, filling in with “la la la”s. “Yeah, we’re over/ yes, we’re over,” he sings. “Just get her paid.”
The mellow, slowed-down “The Worry List” is Furstenfeld finding his legs, standing tall with an eye toward the future while acknowledging and surveying his mistakes. I’m fine, he is saying, seemingly to himself as much as to his ex-wife. Disc closer “The Follow Through” is a testament to strength and recovery. It’s time, he knows, to walk away, to start anew, to relinquish guilt and anger for a new perspective. “I will lay down my heart/ I will let you go/ that’s what’s best for us all.” The song is accented by last-half vocals from Patricia Lynn (of the band Soldier Thread). She’s got a gorgeous voice which, when combined with Furstenfeld’s, suggests a new and hopeful beginning.
Justin Furstenfeld’s got one of those voices that works across a range of genres, conveying strength, anger, pleading, pain, and acceptance. Any Man in America is a showcase of his many talents, a storybook from beginning to end, an ultimately uplifting portrait of a man tested and triumphant. A | Laura Hamlett
 

 

 

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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