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A world apart?
on 17 October 2008
Returning from the nu-disco of Hercules and Love Affair, 'Another World' finds Antony & The Johnsons revisiting the themes and cabaret moods of Mercury-winning breakthrough, 'I Am A Bird Now'. Having such a singular singing style is both a gift and a burden: while Hegarty made the transition to the dancefloor with apparent ease, the return to the niche territory of his first two albums may wear the casual listener's patience thin. We are back in Hegarty's emotional universe, an oppressively personal place dominated by interlocking themes of transgenderism and emancipation (emotional and physical). While overcoming repressive gender categorisations could make for quite a universal musical subject matter, 'Another World' is suffused with such a acute sense of melancholy and isolation to sometimes render Hegarty's music rather impenetrable. There is no denying the beauty of the music, but sometimes he seems locked in a certain emotional register that can be repetitive. While technically impressive, the quivering vulnerability of Antony's vocal is so invariable the listener is in danger of becoming immune to its powers.
With a Japanese transvestite performance artist adorning the stark black and white cover artwork, 'Another World''s title is misleading, as it is hard to see this EP as a departure. In the main, the Johnsons brand is ostensibly unchanged: the subtle shadings and embellishments very much backgrounded by Anthony's fragile vocals and piano. Things do, however, get weirder on the skeletal gospel of 'Shake that Devil', which pits Anthony's tremulous singing over stark, ominous drones, a big rockabilly breakbeat and saxophone squeals. Shades of Morphine and Angelo Badalamente suggest new, swampier tangents to come on their next full length. Otherwise it's honestly much of a sameness, and none of the songs here improve upon what Anthony & The Johnsons have done before.
First published at The Line of Best Fit