Antony and the Johnsons
Antony is a one-of-a-kind, gentle he-diva. He is tall a friendly, confident and sincere. I Am a Bird Now is half brilliant pieces which could compare to jazz standards or 70s rock jewels like Berlin. Unfortunately the other half sounds less impressive.
There are guests here: Boy George, Rufus Wainwright, Lou Reed, Devendra Banhart. And well, my favourite songs are guest-free. To me it feels as if Antony had relied on the talent of the guest in question in order to complete half of the song. And most of the time (Fistful of Love cannot be taken into account as Lou appears as an expensive and grumpy gimmick) it doesn't really work. The most obvious example is Rufus Wainwright's take on "What Can I Do" which sounds like a Rufus Wainwright song featuring Antony singing do-do-doooos in the back. "You Are My Sister", with Boy George as a duet partner is quite weird. Boy George fails where antony succeeds: in conveying emotion. The contrast between both singers is unsettling. Sisters or not, it hardly works. Now Banhart. It becomes harder and harder to like him as press (in Europe at least) goes totally out of control when it comes to him. I don't really know if the only thing he did was mumbling and playing with bells for the intro or helping Antony with the songwriting. Either way i don't really see the point.
It strikes me as difficult for Antony to find balance between classic minimalism and kitsch grandiloquence. He does succeed in finding this balance in a handful of songs: "Hope There's Someone" and "Bird Girl" bookend the record in a magnificent way. Beautiful, delicate songs, like the stunning "Man is the Baby" or "For Today I Am a Boy" sound like timeless classics. "Fistful of Love" stands out as the album's centerpiece, the most convincing and also the most brutal. In songs like these Antony impresses and Candy Darling radiates on her death bed feeling that this is actually right. And even if I Am a Bird Now is not the masterpiece I had expected, Antony and his (good) songs are simply amazing.
/feb 15th 2005/