15 June 2005

Antony and the Johnsons - 'Hope There's Someone'

Good grief, but this is something special. I confess I had given this lot little heed. They garnered rapid praise in glossy music mags for the middle-aged, of which I am naturally distrustful. (Look, I only buy those mags for plane and train journeys, and because there’s always something good on the CDs, okay?) Plus there was the involvement of usually reliable negative indicators, like Lou (didn’t you used to be good sometime in the last Century?) Reed and Boy George. (Actually, what I do like about Boy George is that whatever he does, he still looks like a fat brickie who should be idling away his afternoon in William Hill’s, only in a stupid big hat. His life has been a triumph of fantasy over corporeal reality.)

Anyway, here’s this 10” on Rough Trade (and by the way, I’m beginning to think that the 10” single is the best of all formats, and wish there was a lot more of them), arty cover with no writing on, picked up with no real enthusiasm while I was buying a pile of other things and it didn’t feel like I was spending enough money. I played it, and then I did that rarest of things: I immediately played it again. It’s a strange and rather unsettling record. There’s a piano and an odd, high, wobbly voice, one of those voices you have to buy into you, where you have to get over the hurdle of thinking it’s a bit ridiculous before you realise it’s something special. There are parallels to be made with the Tindersticks during one of their more soulful moments, before some symphony orchestra or other kicks in. Subject matter is stunning, too, pulling me up short: “hope there’s someone who'll care for me when I die.” Bloody hell. Don’t we all? Then, just when you’re trying to keep yourself together, the piano soars to the fore and swamps the song, loud, echoing, a tunnel of sound. If there was an afterlife, this might be what the journey there would sound like. I was left floored.

I suspect I wouldn’t much like Antony, or his Johnsons, if I met them, and wouldn’t want to hang out with the trendy New York art crowd that provides the milieu from which this apparently springs. I wanted not to like this. Now, damn them, I’m going to have to buy the LP.

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