Antony and the Johnsons, ‘Cut the World’ – Album Review
This review will refer to Antony Hegarty, the transgender heart of Antony and the Johnsons, by the masculine pronoun, though, of course, he is so much more than that.
About halfway through ‘Future Feminism,’ the seven-minute soliloquy that serves as the second track to ‘Cut the World’ — the second live album by Antony and the Johnsons — the transgender and transcendent Antony Hegarty describes his “praying really hard” to God when he was 6 years old, after which “I waited and waited to hear that summons. I think on a funny way, in a lot of my music, I’m listening for that response still.”
It is this, then, that is the enlivening force of Hagerty’s enlivened ecstasies, a rhythm of fallen crests, beaten breasts and quiet quests. The self-described witch — patriarchal monotheisms don’t give transgenders much of a choice, he says — is yearning to feel the presence of the divine. And so, so much of ‘Cut the World,’ recorded with the Danish National Symphonic Orchestra and culling from Hagerty’s catalog, is his reaching for divinity, whether in the red eyes of a dead boy or in the necks of swans — a gesture that, in the ears of the listener, is returned.
Part of divine revelation is sensitivity, and it is sensitivity which lends the album its name. The first track, (which we went into more detail with previously), is a passive call for reciprocity, as the world has cut Hagerty so, yet our singer has not returned the bleeding favor. In ‘Cripple and the Starfish,’ sensitivity is coupled with rebirth, the last main theme of the album, with Hagerty making sonorous wishes that he may regrow what has been taken away from him.
Only the enthused applause and howls of joy let it be known that this is a live recording, as each note is impeccable, and each quaver of Hagerty’s voice is in its place, throughout the sincere tenderness of ‘You Are My Sister,’ the impassioned impressionism of ‘Swanlights’ and the joyous uplift of ‘Kiss My Name. In ‘Kiss My Name,’ it seems that Hagerty assumes the role of nature, seasonally sodden ground and the “cold that I became.”
Every track is a highlight. ‘Epilepsy Is Dancing’ has the quality of Elton John pop fable, ‘The Crying Light’ is an exhibition of the power of Hagerty’s falsetto and ‘Rapture’ is, well, rapturous.
All of this prattle is to say this: Hagerty is a generational artist. Put on your headphones and luxuriate in his presence.