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The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

This review was first published on CLUAS in 2005
Other albums reviewed in 2005

Antony and the Johnsons

A review of his album 'I am bird now'

Antony and the Johnsons 'I am a bird now'Review Snapshot: A performer finally comes into his own and finds his unique voice. And what a voice. Mercury prize winning artist Anthony (and the Johnsons) produce an album of startling depth and honesty. If Nina Simone were a young white drag queen this is what she would sound like.

The Cluas Verdict: 9 out of 10.

Full Review: If and when you get to heaven, do not be surprised if you hear this record wafting out of the celestial speakers. One of the most startling and beautiful records released in many years, I am a Bird sounds like salvation. Salvation can come from strange places. Antony Johnston is a drag performer who is heavily influenced the New York performance art scene. He was in a choir as a young boy and his first EP was universally acclaimed. He is a strange and eccentric individual who has been championed by and done duets with both Lou Reed and Boy George. But all of this fades into insignificance when you hear Antony sing.

You probably have a preconceived idea of what this is going to sound like. You probably think its some horrible screeching feedback-laden camp fiasco or some disco drenched nightmare. Well you're wrong. In fact whatever you're thinking it's probably wrong. Because the music this band make is music that is nigh on impossible to describe to someone who hasn't heard it. If I was to give it one of those awful Sunday-supplement-music-section descriptions, I'd say it was like Morrissey and Nina Simone had a child and Rufus Wainright thought him how to play the piano. When you first hear Antony's voice you will almost certainly be surprised. His androgynous tone contains both male and female tinges of beauty. With a truly breath-taking vocal range, Antony weaves a tapestry with his voice that cradles and disarms you. All the songs are torchy, slow burning ballads that you can imagine sound tracking the world's most tasteful burial service. Theirs is an old-style smoky accompaniment that could have been pure cheese if it was covered in the voice of most other people. But the sheer individuality of the vocals conquers all. The songs of confusion, love and loneliness that are contained upon this album will forever have a small place in your soul.

That is of course if you like them. If you're any way into music at all this is very much a love or hate album. If your taste is vested solely guitars that go "widdly widdly widdly skcreeeeeeeeee widdly woo" and songs about how you hate your life and want to eat your parents (or something) then I wouldn't rush out and buy this. I'd also hesitate if the last record you bought had the words "now", "ultimate", "anthem"," europa" or "il divo" in the title. Anto's voice takes a bit of getting used to for some people. If you're having any doubts got download "Fell in love with a dead boy". If it doesn't break your heart, forget about this band. If it does, don't say I didn't warn you. Then go and buy this record because Antony and the Johnsons will put a smile on your face, a tear in your eye and broadness in your mind.

Sean McTiernan

  • To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.