WNnG – Musings from the desk of chaz.

February 19, 2009, 3:16 pm
Filed under: New Music

Last night I saw Antony & the Johnsons on Letterman. It was truly something amazing and as much as I find it strange to review a television appearance, you’re just gonna have to bare with me – I have yet to see them live. As soon as I received the new album in the mail a couple months ago, I became a convert and I finally was open to the absolute beauty of his songwriting. Really, I was a bit dumbfounded and embarrassed to have passed over such an artist in the past. I’d always just pushed his music off to the side as part of the new oddball-“avant”-indie-movement. A songwriter joining the ranks of the new phase of faux-eccentric artists looking to make a name through kitsch and gimmick.

Little did I know this man was the real thing. A twisted, shining moment that only comes through in the swing of music once every decade or so. Maybe it’s just because I’m in my 51st Velvets/proto-punk obsession phase and I’m more prone to being swept away by the avant, androgynous flirting with the music norms. Maybe it was seeing him on an established variety show like Letterman that excited me – an artist living on the edge of what is accepted, yet too pretty and relevant to hide. Perhaps his appearance has everything to do with Paul Shaffer still appreciating and realizing good music and pushing it on the Late Night crew. Maybe the writers are hip to it, or the interns, maybe even Letterman likes pushing his audience a little – which is actually why I like to watch him. Letterman toys with the audience and pokes them a bit, he brings an edge with a grin into his show, like he’s got a secret on you. But anyway, that’s beside the point. As I watched this enormous, other-worldly voice creep out of this androgynous, black-haired being hunkered behind a piano on a show catering towards conservative, TV-watching America, I was enamored. It was a scene from a smoke-filled bar room with a lost soul perched behind his one love, one comfort, his instrument, crooning out his soul and angle towards an audience unsure if they wanted to listen, unsure if they believed what they were seeing. It was this scene, but broadcast into everyone’s room in every state. I got this swell of pride that there’s room for a genuine edge in mainstream music again. Or at least edge and beauty are allowed to flirt, tangle and clash in front of a large audience that wants it.

The raw emotion and honesty of the performance is what really inspired me. That duality and juxtaposition of beauty and turmoil. Beauty existing in the dark. Pain put on a pedestal. It reminded me of the uneasiness of the perfect Lou Reed performance, when Bowie could chillingly deliver a bent ballad, Richard Hell and Patti Smith creating a jarring background for their biting poetry, Iggy baring himself and breaking down in his primal state to the audience – they all stir that similar, welcome feeling of inspiration deep enough to penetrate a jaded soul. It was beautiful to experience this and it makes his new album that much richer. He’s on to something special here and I intend to follow it. It’s too beautiful and heart-wrenching to ignore.

But then again. I am a jaded record store clerk and I am reading too much on Iggy, the Velvets and the proto-punk generation at the moment. Again. Maybe this is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

Chaz-fact#232: I was working the graveyard at a 24hr convenience store in CO and this memorable, hunkering, short-bleached-hair gentleman comes in. Lou Reed is playing literally 5 blocks away and I could not get off work – it was bad. I was not happy. I was listening to VU & Nico and and as he bought smokes he commented on how he’d have to tell Lou that some kid was playing his music in the local convenience store. I was thrilled. Years later after hearing that Antony had been a backup singer for Lou Reed, I saw a picture of him and realized he was that random, memorable dude. I became thrilled all over again. From Lou Reed backup to starlet of his own show pushing the same eccentric values. Perfect.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’ve never gotten into Antony but you’ve totally inspired me. That latest album is the place to start?

Comment by Jeff

In my opinion, yes yes! It’s amazing. Rich, beautiful, dark, creepy, moody swells intertwined with timeless songwriting! I also hadn’t really gotten into his stuff before this record. This has definitely put him in the realm of top modern day songwriters. Brilliant.

Comment by wnng

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