Antony & the Johnsons have put together an elaborate assortment of artsy, sweet, and odd songs on their debut album. Antony's voice is a stunning musical instrument, sounding as feminine as it does masculine. Occasionally, he pulls out all the stops and affects a successful, soaring vocal style. The atmosphere of the album is dark yet somehow uplifting. The music, mostly slow, quiet jazz, played on a piano, harp, cello, flute, clarinets, saxophone, violins, and drums (in addition to some guitar work) occasionally matches Antony's bombastic vocals. Song titles like "Cripple and the Starfish," "Hitler in My Heart," and "The Atrocities" give an idea of the tone. "Hitler in My Heart" sees Antony searching for a "piece of kindness" but finding Hitler in his heart, before relating that "from the corpses, flowers grow." No matter what those lyrics suggest, the song itself begins as a playful, spooky art experiment before revealing itself to be a touching, introspective ballad. "Divine," an ode to the late, transvestite actor, is less amusing than one would think; somehow Antony makes lyrics like, "I hold your big fat heart in my hands" and "I'll swallow sh*t" appear respectful. There's not a dull moment to be found on the album, and "Blue Angel" closes the album in the only way possible, with wails and laments of "I'm on fire." Judging by the artwork and photographs included with the album and press reviews of live performances, there's a great deal of sexual ambiguity at work in the band's dynamics. Perhaps this same ambiguity is the driving force of the band's art. Whether that's the case or not, the band and the singer have mastered their sonic attack and created an extremely compelling debut album.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina