Antony and the Johnsons .
What a terribly good name for a group.
Very often in popular music groups are let down by their name (hello to the “Arctic Monkeys”) and it can be very difficult for them to get past that initial hurdle.
Groups can also be let down by their look (hello again to Sheffields “Arctic Monkeys” who look rather like Anthony from the Royal Family…not a good thing) and this can detract from the power of the music.
Artwork can be another stumbling block (oh dear, once again we have to point to the “Monkeys”…have you seen their “art”work?) because, as Oscar Wilde put it; “only a fool doesn’t judge a book by it’s cover”. He was, as always, absolutely right.
Only once these obstacles have been overcome can one get down to the nitty-gritty of actually listening to a band properly. There is nothing more depressing than hearing a song on the radio, enjoying it and then discovering that the band are called, well, The Arctic Monkeys and that they look like Anthony Royal and have spent about 5 minutes on their artwork.
Look at The Strokes…a fine band, good songs, good name, good look but dreadful artwork and that is why I will never really love them.
Pop music should be about the complete package…why settle for anything less?
I was wary when I first heard Antony and the Johnsons…he/she (I wasn’t sure at that point) sounded incredible. The voice of a castrato angel. Songs so gentle that one was afraid to sing along in case they broke. But would they turn out to be dressed in a shirt from Matalan and have a picture of a “tasty bird” on the front cover?
No and no again.
Antony was a giant of a person…like Roald Dahls BFG but clad in black. They looked as delicate, despite their size, as their songs sounded. No “laddish” affectations. No desperate attempt at fitting in. No desire to be “hip”. This was an artist who looked like as they sounded…beautiful, ethereal, hopeful and hopeless.
The artwork was achingly beautiful.
Stylish but never stylised.
The Mercury prize winning “I Am A Bird Now” is both haunting and affecting but never gothic or affected. It is full of beautiful songs of the sort not heard since…oh goodness only knows.
This is no rock ‘n’ roll spectacular.
This is no “indie” pop moment.
This is a record to be cherished.
Every single song should be listened to time and again so that you can be sure that your initial impression that this is one of the greatest albums of all time is correct.
You will meet people after you hear it who will say cruel things about this record.
Cut those people out of your life.
They are not worth knowing.
Find the people who appreciate this record…they are your people.
This arrived in my life at a very particular, and peculiar, moment in time.
I had hoped that their was someone who…
Could love me.
Would be loyal.
Would care for me.
Would fling their arms around me…kiss me tenderly.
It wasn’t to be.
Instead they had flung their arms around someone else.
I put on a terribly brave face.
I didn’t feel brave.
It took a long time to repair.
Music has, so often, been the glue that has held the broken pieces of my heart, soul and life together.
Antony is more than glue.
They are the heart and soul.
A prophet for those in pieces.
Soothing balm of Gilead.
I’m very grateful.
Try this…when Antony performs “You are my Sister” live with Boy George…if you’re heart melts then you understand.
If it doesn’t then you are probably dead.