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Antony’s album a voyage of self-discovery

Observer Scene | Thursday, November 3, 2005

If the cover art for this album isn’t striking enough, the uniqueness of Antony’s voice in the first two lines of “Hope There’s Someone” – the album’s first track – should be sufficient to draw in any listener. The first thought that comes to mind when listening to the album is the beauty of its vocals, followed closely by the question of whether it is a male or female singing those lyrics.

Androgyny is Antony’s specialty, and walking the line between male and female makes up a great part of the album’s thematic substance. Case in point of this would be “For Today I Am a Boy,” a song in which his voice is accompanied solely by a simple piano melody that, by the end of the song, powers alongside one of the scant appearances of a drum set to create one of the more memorable tracks on the album. Lines like “One day I’ll grow up, I’ll be a beautiful girl / But for today I am a child, for today I am a boy” emphasize the lack of gender and question of gender categorization that pervades throughout much of the album.

The sheer splendor of Antony’s voice and deep, haunting, yet hopeful lyrics are sufficient to put together an outstanding album, yet the band employs a series of guest stars to add, at times, indispensable depth to their tracks.

While Devendra Banhart and Lou Reed-who’s played shows with Antony on numerous occasions-are featured briefly at the beginning of “Spiralling” and “Fistfull of Love” respectively, it’s the cameos of Boy George (that’s right, Boy George) and Rufus Wainwright that have the greatest impact on the album. “You Are My Sister,” features Boy George turning in an incredibly powerful performance, perfectly complementing Antony’s lead. Wainwright sings lead on “What Can I Do?” a song that checks in at less than two minutes but proves to be another highlight on an album that is markedly devoid of lowlights.

In spite of the numerous cameos, it is an album unmistakably dominated by Antony’s voice and his deeply introspective lyrics. While the tone of the album is founded primarily upon the combination of sparse piano melodies and Antony’s quivering vocals, the pinnacle of the album comes on the aforementioned “Fistfull of Love,” which deviates from the simplistic structure of the other nine songs. After Lou Reed’s short spoken-word verses, it opens up as the other tracks do, with gentle guitar lines backing the ever-present piano. This, however, is the end of the softness, as the song quickly picks up the pace and employs the bombast of trumpets, trombones, Reed’s noodling guitar riffs and the only dominant drum line of the album. The lyrical strength of the song lies in the juxtaposition of Reed’s sincere opening lines with Antony’s symbolic violence -“And I feel your fists / And I know it’s out of love … And I feel your burning eyes burning holes / Straight through my heart.”

The album’s chilling finale “Bird Gerhl” completes the voyage of self-discovery that progresses from the first words of the first track. Antony’s trembling vibrato takes center stage once again, proclaiming “I’ve been searching / For my wings some time / I’m gonna be born / Into soon the sky / ‘Cause I’m a bird girl / And the bird girls go to heaven.”