Friday, January 13, 2006

2005 Out Through the In Door : Return of the Ballads

My relationship with romantic ballads is based mainly on Nick Cave's The Good Son. With this sweetish album Cave made his way to my ear and heart with a fistfull of kitschy piano romance, yet still succeeded in keeping his well dark manners. When I first came across Antony & the Johnsons' Hope There's Someone, the whole general aura of The Good Son piano-craving had suddenly shined back to me, even though Antony is putting his main essence on being simply blue and broken, while Cave was used to find his comfort in some sick love imaginary. Besides their passion for expressive Scott Walker-like ballads, piano and the fact that they are quite outsiders, I wouldn't say Nick Cave and Antony have that much in common.

Antony is a very, very sad person, and being so sexually-confused had never been presented in such a bitter and doleful way. His second album with The Johnsons, I Am A Bird Now, is a fabulous and pure expression of confusion and lack of love or real compassion and understanding. It seems that Antony is the loneliest drama-queen on earth, and his search for fondness is nothing but a long, maybe endless, frustrating journey.

"Hope there's someone who take care of me when I die", a line from the first track on the album, is more or less the whole Antony and the Johnsons emotional agenda. Quite a way to kick start an album with, I might add, leaving no room for any kind of optimism or even a hint of a bliss. But, is Antony really alone? since he recruits a few diverse and colorful friends on this album as well. On You are my Sister, Boy George, Antonys' big idol is giving a helping hand, and Rufus Wainwright appears on the dark, rainy What Can I Do?. More help is given by the latest "freak-folk" craze, Devendra Banhart on the sweet/sour Spiraling, and Lou Reed, who had actually discovered the huge potential of Antony, is lending his guitar and poem-reading on Fistul of Love.

All in all, I Am a Bird Now is a wonderful and humble Blues/Soul oriented ballads album, with Antony's deep, torned and emotional voice. Actually, I seem to find his voice the one and only instrument that he will even need, since it contains all the dramatic sorrow and sadness a man can hold inside.

The videos for Hope There's Someone and You Are my Sister had made a great job in presenting the sexual confusion of Antony, and showed nothing but faces and characters that can't really be defined - man? woman? we can't tell, and judging from the album's artwork itself, presenting Andy Warhol's transvestite muse Candy Darling - it is one of Antony's biggest issues.

I Am a Bird Now had proved to be a beautiful and highly-personal work, and even though it contains contributions from other same-minded artists, the basic emotional wrack of Antony & the Johnsons is still the main attraction. The only even-better Antony moment I had this year was discovering his first effort, the self titled one, pulled out 5 years ago. I am sorry it took me so long, but very thankful for the exciting discovery.

YOU ARE MY SISTER featuring Boy George

>> Hope There's Someone
I Am a Bird Now 2005
Secretly Canadian

>> River of Sorrow
Antony and the Johnsons 2000
Secretly Canadian

>> Cripple and the Starfish
Antony and the Johnsons 2000
Secretly Canadian


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