Ezra Furman plays a school dance in an episode of Sex Education. Credit: Courtesy Netflix

Ezra Furman’s “I’m Coming Clean,” released in early 2019, feels oddly prescient. “The world never goes back to the way that it was / That’s just not something that the world does,” Furman sings, sounding tuneful but resigned. “But I’m holdin’ on when the spin gets strong / I’ve got my knuckles tight and bloodless / I’m holdin’ on.”

Of course, the song wasn’t written about the plagued and troubled world we’re living in now—it’s a coming-of-age ballad written for the Netflix series Sex Education, a dramedy about high schoolers coming to terms with their identities and sexualities. But upon rediscovering the show and its soundtrack during a quarantine-induced binge, I couldn’t help but notice that the uncertainties, social anxieties, and identity crises that crept back into our lives over the past year felt a lot like being in high school again. And while I didn’t have Furman’s angsty, fragile, and at times even joyful anthems to get me through my actual puberty, I can appreciate them as I prepare to come out of my COVID cocoon.

Sex Education follows Otis (Asa Butterfield), a 16-year-old who isn’t in touch with his own sexuality but who has a sex therapist mother (Gillian Anderson) and can thus dispense advice to his classmates—who are struggling with all sorts of problems, including an ultra-sensitive gag reflex, ignorance of proper genital and anal hygiene, and an inability to enjoy sex. It’s the diverse, sex-positive teen show I wish I’d had in high school—each episode is equal parts laughs, tears, and cringes, all punctuated with Furman’s songs.

The soundtrack as a whole is like a best-of album for Furman, featuring not only material written for the series but also favorites from previous albums, including “Restless Year,” “My Zero,” and her cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “I Can Change.” An instrumental version of one of the most orchestral songs from her catalog, “Love You So Bad,” scores the series’ most triumphant moments, swelling with joy. And Furman herself appears in the first season, in a scene set at a school dance; she performs some originals and covers “The Origin of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

The final episode of the series so far (season three is currently in production, though an air date has yet to be announced) ends with another soundtrack original, “Care.” It’s the most delicate and mournful song on the album, with Furman singing as if reflecting on her younger self—a hopeful self who doesn’t quite see those hopes come to fruition. “And I, all I wanted / Was a world of love and care / I, all I wanted was care,” she sings on the refrain. Listening to it now is a reminder that if we do regress into our teenage mindsets as we relearn how to navigate society and ourselves, showing ourselves a little love and care can go a long way.  v

  • Ezra Furman’s soundtrack album for Sex Education

The Listener is a weekly sampling of music Reader staffers love. Absolutely anything goes, and you can reach us at thelistener@chicagoreader.com.