Monday, May 4, 2009

The Cryling Light Review... kinda‏

This is an Antony and the Johnson's review by Bangkok transplant Andrew Jones.

Antony and the Johnson’s albums have swung all over the map. Their first foray came out on David Tibet’s Durttro label, a recording company that has been chronicling queer performers like KAOS’ digital Angel, Annie Bandez, and of course Baby Dee. Of all the performers though, Antony Hegarty’s stuff fits in the best with the glut of emo that has been a staple of indie-rock since the early nineties. His/her music makes depression sound harrowing, and the atmosphere manages to link post-hardcore maudlinness with the troubadours of folk. Its songs linked tranny circle ideas like sisters with the alienated landscapes of rock. The two, surprisingly, went together rather well. The Crying Light dispenses with rock for the simple joys of a piano. It is a simple album, that’s major emotional chord is just the despair in Antony’s voice. The major tragedy of Antony’s music is his own performance. He isn’t the woman he wants to be, but is becoming one. He is negotiating this self in a culture where transsexuals have been shot at school, thrown over bridges for their walk, and denied entry to Manhattan restaurants. The Crying Light doesn’t touch on such ideas directly; it is instead just a series of stories often marked by their own desire for annihilation. In one track he intones, “cut me intro quadrants, leave me in the corner,” in Another World he desires to escape culture. Like Robert Smith he is fond of lyrics filled with pity, asking for mercy and like Boy George he sings with genuine heart.

Antony’s use of his identity on stage resembles his idol Marc Almond. Both are queer performers, displaying that unique ability the subjugated have for developing alternative selves, work place identities, and gay selves that derive from base desires long covered over by fear or impracticality. In Marc Almond, queer is inimical to the familiarity of everyday hetero-selves. Gender and sexuality are constructions and transgression is an act of rebellion. But Hagerty is not a rebel; he makes trans-gender even homely. The mechanics of identity and sexuality construction become tools of realizing a normalized psychology, his stance doesn't differ much from the plain unassuming self-absorption of Yo La Tengo. In an era in which sincerity and simplicity are guiding values, Mr./Ms. Hegarty has shown the values of her identity as cordial to her peers. Such pronouncements stand at odds with other transsexuals like RuPaul, who promote a wild feminine approach in accord with gay liberation's attempts to form a homo-counterculture, but Ms. Hegarty's blending in is more in line with the reality of most of America’s trans-gender. The posters on Laura's playground for instance, a web board for America's transgendered, are more interested in acceptance and less in making radical statements out of their selves. When Antony sings, his conviction doesn't seem to be at odds with his audience; rather it's an appeal to their pathos.

Pathos is what has marked Antony’s career so far. His quivering voice has given simple little refrains a Tim Buckley like sense of the epic. His early worked focused on drag performance and S&M. Antony's history is rather telling. He arrived in New York just in time to watch the heydays of gay liberation wind down into the polo shirted gay couple and their simulacrum of hetero-family life. Drag with its associated glam was at most a footnote and post-stonewall Brooklyn was an exception in American culture with its acceptance of its trans-gendered residents. Gay has become essentialist in the popular imagination that it might be as constructed as heterosexuality, that it might have to do with who people prefer to be, has been lost in the noise of its mainstream acceptance. Simply put, so many of the identities people inhabit in our society are so easy to assume and maintain, that some people’s desire for a new self to get out of the psychological suburbia sincerity requires becomes unbelievable. Hagerty has made queer into sincerity. Her frankness in photographs reminds of Leigh Bowery’s performances, and her message, that I am constructing a self, that I am becoming who I want to be is lasting. It is a story of sexuality and self that is only a tragedy in America.

No comments: