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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 105 - 04/24/05

Antony and the Johnsons
I Am a Bird Now
Secretely Canadian

These are interesting people. Most of the members of the band come from a more traditional musical training than your average band that might get written about these days. They're also each involved in several projects. Julia Kent, the cellist/string arranger, started the band Rasputina. Antony himself (I will use the "he/him" pronouns as gramatically neutral when referring to Antony; be aware that he is a transsexual) has sung and toured with Lou Reed. He's also done acting, playing the part of an androgynous convict singing to a crowd of inmates in Steve Buscemi's Animal Factory. He appeared recently singing to a crowd of Parisian transsexuals in Sebastien Lifshitz's latest film Wild Side. He performed solo a stage piece for Phillip Glass at Carnegie Hall. Antony and the Johnsons are a self-described "utterly genderqueer musical sensation". This is their second full-length, and gueststars Julia Yasuda, Lou Reed, Devendra Banhart, Rufus Wainwright and Boy George. Well, this had better be good!

"Hope There's Someone" opens. Antony uses super-vibrato, much like Devendra Banhart would. Not many people can pull that off, but oh Antony does. His voice is so desperate sounding, so longing for comfort that it quivers and shakes nearly out of control. It's really damned good. It's very painful sounding. This song stays low, with soft accompaniment, but opens up into an incredible sheet of multi-tracked voice and strongly percussed piano chords. "My Lady Story" is one of the most soulful songs I've heard. "For Today I Am a Boy" sheds all kinds of light on Antony's innerds. His fantasies, daydreams, and pretendings lead to the amazing spectacle of a pained and talented human being. Antony says: "I am a boy today. One day I will grow up to be a lady." By track 4, "Man is the Baby", I do find myself wishing for a rock song, wanting to hear Antony's voice with something besides softer backgrounds. This is a beautiful song though. "You Are My Sister" features Boy George dueting with Antony. "You are my sister, and I love you. Make all of your dreams come true."

Shaping up perfectly, I Am a Bird Now continues with "What Can I Do?". Rufus Wainwright's soothing voice takes lead here. Again, a song that just oozes soul. Lou Reed reads a poem at the beginning of "Fistful of Love". It's short, but it's nice to hear his voice. He also plays solo guitar throughout this track. Wish he'd sung. Sublime track though. The trumpets and saxes are great, and Reed's playing is as interesting as ever. It's almost as though you can hear Antony's life. This truly is great music. Old Devendra Banhart sings in the next tune, "Spiraling". It's, as you might imagine, real good. Just takes you away to another world. The harmony that Devendra and Antony sing toward the end of the tune is simply gorgeous. "Free at Last" is penultimate. It's a short little tune (1:17) that holds a surprise that is simply indescribable. "Bird Gehrl" is devastating. "I am a bird gehrl now", Antony sings.

Original and socially vital, I Am a Bird Now is a double-important piece of work. We have here a Hedwig and the Angry Inch for the modern time... no, here we have Antony and The Johnsons. This is an album to be cherished, and those are rare.

Copyright © 2005 Bill Banks e-mail address

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