Put Up Your Dukes: Antony And The Johnsons

antony540cTwo of MAGNET’s Matts—editor Matthew Fritch and writer Matt Ryan—go to the mat to see whose opinion is more correct. Today’s topic: Antony And The Johnsons. Put up your dukes!

From: Matt Ryan
To: Matthew Fritch
After reading all the critical hosannas about Antony And The Johnsons (including your 2005 MAGNET cover story), I decided to check out the new one, The Crying Light. Admittedly, I’m late to the party, having missed out on Antony’s acclaimed debut, I Am A Bird Now. However, having now given Mr. Hegarty my full attention, I have one question for you, which I’ll pose as eloquently and succinctly as possible: Dude, WTF? I’m all for the gender-bending thing in pop music; hell, I’ll listen to Jeff Buckley do Edith Piaf all day long. But this guy? Blech. Please explain the appeal, as I simply don’t get it.

“Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground” from The Crying Light:

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From: Matthew Fritch
To: Matt Ryan

“Dude, WTF?” and “I don’t get it” are extremely poor argument starters, but I guess I’m locked into defending … something about Antony Hegarty. My original take on Antony circa I Am A Bird Now was heavily contextualized: In the dog days of the Bush administration and the war on terror, Antony was the ultimate outsider—a transgendered, NYC-based performance artist—and yet his songs were full of hope and empathy and comfort. It was pretty uplifting. You kind of had to be there. Re: The Crying Light, it’s pretty obviously an album with a message about environmentalism. Maybe I’ll talk more about that later; I’ll wait and see if you try to paint me as some tree-hugging liberal. Are you sure you listened to the first track on the Antony disc (“Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground”)? Perhaps you were expecting Anthony Kiedis?

From: Matt Ryan
To: Matthew Fritch

Sorry, after our last debate, I thought you preferred to deal in sweeping generalizations. I’ll be more specific: I find Hegarty’s affected warble both annoying and creepy. I’m not a violent person, but I found myself wanting to bitch slap him for pronouncing dancing as “dahncing” in “Epilepsy Is Dancing” and kiss as “kees” in “Kiss My Name.” I’ve read that he fancies himself a teenage girl trapped in a man’s body, but his weird, overly cultured enunciations suggest that he’s a 70-year-old high-society woman trapped in a man’s body. I can get behind the outsider status and environmentalism (who do you think I am, Dick Cheney?), but that voice doesn’t conjure for me hope, empathy and comfort so much as fear and loathing. And for the record, no, I wasn’t expecting Anthony Kiedis. Although I would pay good money to hear Hegarty sing “Special Secret Song Inside” (a.k.a. “Party On Your Pussy”) from The Uplift Mofo Party Plan.

From: Matthew Fritch
To: Matt Ryan

Re: “dahncing,” Antony is originally from England. They talk funny over there. But listen, pal, if you think I’m going to sit back and let you accuse a Manhattan-based avant garde performance artist—a guy who runs in social circles with Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson—of “affected” behavior or suggest he might be putting on airs, well … I sort of forgot what I was going to threaten you with. This is boring. I’m bored now. Hey, let’s change the subject and let me throw this out there: If the Red Hot Chili Peppers had broken up after Blood Sugar Sex Magik, its members never to be heard from again, they would be held in the same regard, rock history-wise, as Nirvana. True or false? Kiedis = Cobain???

From: Matt Ryan
To: Matthew Fritch

Hegarty moved to the U.S. as a child more than 25 years ago, so I highly doubt the accent is due to his country of origin. More likely it’s a product of pretentiousness, prissiness or a combination of both. As to your other question, let me first compliment you on your mastery of the segue; that transition was as smooth as a camel in a boulder field. I assume you’re poking fun at the Chili Peppers (and Nirvana?) here, but your sarcasm was so poorly executed that I’m left with having no fucking idea what you’re talking about. Still, being the sporting type, I’ll treat it as a serious inquiry and attempt to respond. Short answer re: Kiedis = Cobain: “No. Are you bonkers?” That said, I’m not going to bash Kiedis and Co. Frusciante is a hell of a guitarist, as was Hillel Slovak (R.I.P.) before him.

From: Matthew Fritch
To: Matt Ryan

Are you still talking about Antony? I’m trying to shift the conversation toward something even more LGBT-oriented: guys who play music with their shirts off! Now that was sarcasm. (I think.) I’m not fooling with you on this. Nevermind and Blood Sugar Sex Magik were both released on Sept. 24, 1991. One of these records is a total drag to listen to; the other is a goofy, imaginative, energetic, creative effort that draws from all corners of a record collection. Don’t sit there and try to pick apart how stupid “Sir Psycho Sexy” is; Cobain’s no John Updike (R.I.P.—I just wanted to have the deaths of Hillel Slovak and John Updike mentioned in proximity for the first time ever), either. Better album artwork, better production, better recording saga, better videos, better ingredients, better pizza. Can I go home now?

From: Matt Ryan
To: Matthew Fritch

Shirts off? And no mention of socks on cocks? Anyway, you’ve put in me in a quandary here, as I have equally fond memories of both bands. Around 1986, I saw the Chili Peppers in a venue probably not much larger than your apartment and it blew my head off. Keep in mind that this was when punk funk was cutting edge, not a punch line. With Nirvana, I recall taping the debut of the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video on the VHS (yes, I’m old) from MTV’s 120 Minutes (back when MTV played music videos; like I said, I’m old) and playing it approximately 3,000 times. With that said, of all the RHCP output, Blood Sugar Sex Magik would be near the bottom of the list for me, and if I never hear “Give It Away” again in my lifetime, it’ll be too soon. Yeah, that record was a lovable goof, but c’mon, Nevermind? That album brought “alternative” kicking and screaming into the mainstream (admittedly, probably not a good thing) and killed ’80s hair metal dead. Its place in music history cannot be understated. But we digress. Yeah, you can go home. To soothe your jangled nerves after this heated debate, I recommend you fix yourself some Chamomile tea, light some votive candles, spread some rose petals on your futon and cue up some Antony And The Johnsons.

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One Comment

  1. Posted February 11, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I just wish they would have spent more time on the subject. the cr*p about those 1991 bands…. bleh.