Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Albums Of The Year: Number 18
It's the voice, stupid. Or: the way the voice is used. While in thrall to this album we looked up reviews of The Raven, Lou Reed's critically speared avant jazz-spoken word-Brechtian 2003 quasi-musical on which Antony, already an album down but unknown outside his New York cabaret circles, sings on a downbeat version of Perfect Day. Quite a few were cautiously understanding but the dread name 'Tiny Tim' does crop up occasionally. As far as we can tell, the only reference in relation to I Am A Bird Now comes on a Pearl Jam forum, and the people there like Pearl Jam.
It could just be about Mr Hegarty's presence, the fact there is a man built like a prop forward, looking like Sonia from Eastenders, who sings like that, but it's what he does with the voice that made the album stand out. Once you've got over the shock of the new at the start of Hope There's Someone, note the desperation and sadness in his words, the stirring of the strings, the coda where his voice seems to turn into just another instrument. On For Today I Am A Boy he turns almost rapturous at the thought of growing up "to be a beautiful woman". Notably, for an album long filed under avant-garde, while it might in certain circles be tantamount to heresy, listen to Fistful Of Love or You Are My Sister and then try to claim that Antony isn't a great soul singer too. Outside the specialist areas of the press, when they'd got over their "but he's American!" ire, they at least publicly professed they didn't get it after the Mercury Music Prize win. Frankly, they never stood a chance.
LISTEN IN: Fistful Of Love
EXTRA FEATURE: A history of Antony's pre-Johnsons performance art collective Blacklips