Antony and the Johnsons
Another World EP
(Secretly Canadian; 2008)
By Dom Sinacola | 1 October 2008
A hold-off until Antony and the Johnson’s third full-length drops way far away in January, Another World desperately labors to keep fans satiated and ends up overburdened, somewhere nicely between all its scattered intentions. Scratch that: call “intentions” just hopes, because Antony Hegarty seems to know a lot about that. I Am a Bird Now (2005) seethed with hope, Hegarty’s voice the arresting vessel for a kind of naïve (but weary) anticipation that sad-sack, even romantic gender issues could translate through smooth jazz and lounge without sounding cheap. The new five-song EP is, I think, supposed to do two main things: to indicate a new direction for Antony’s songwriting and to assure the interested (there are a lot of them) that all the guest-spots and collaborations and appearances by the figurehead haven’t completely stifled the band’s original output. And then I think Antony also kinda wants to come off a bit cuddlier, less ethereal and startling; I think, too, he wants to invite more dark, blank expanses into his arrangements. And then I think he wants to fuck Mick Jagger.
But who doesn’t? Who hasn’t? “Shake That Devil” might as well come stamped in British blue, a call-and-response rockabilly exorcism ripped and doped into slow motion to fit Antony’s melodramatic tenor. The point isn’t that it’s not good—give it time and it becomes more fun than its tired formula suggests—but that Antony appears to be shouldering more than he can manage. That Antony can toy, now, with masculine rock archetypes without resorting, completely, to glam retread is appreciated, but still, throughout most of Another World the frontman’s persona feels simply out of place. “Another World,” despite its swampy, dirge-ful seriousness, can’t muster much believability. Why should we accept Antony’s deep concern about the birds and the bees when he still seems so solipsistically involved in his own? And if it’s a big fat metaphor it’s lost on me; flaccid lyrics like “My face / Oh, the cities in my eyes / Doves in the skies” from “Crackagen” serve to categorize everything here and, without countenance, do little else.
Meanwhile, “Sing For Me” acts a pleasant bridge between the new and the old; “Hope Mountain” dramatically prophesizes just how far that bridge will go to catholicize the Theater of Antony Hegarty come the new year. There’s even a simmering, pregnant pause before the EP finally turns off. In turn, my intentions have always been few and bare: to take Antony for what he really wants to be and accept that he’ll figure out what that exactly is sooner or later. Another World, unfortunately, is stagnant in the singer’s arc and after a few moving lurches collapses under its own ambition. Hug it out, Antony, and let’s try again.