It became fairly obvious after the first track: this just isn’t my type of music. The Crying Light (CD – MP3) was my first exposure to Antony and the Johnsons, and I think it will likely be the last. This is pure opinion – something that is looked down upon when “writing for the web,” or so I’m told – but if you have one single iota of “rock” in your body, you cannot possibly like this music.
The Crying Light is, for the most part, an unabashedly weepy, morose collection of hushed, sorrowful ballads backed by reserved instrumentation such as woodwinds, strings, and piano. The heaving melodrama of Antony Hegarty’s quivering voice is nearly unbearable, though the musical constructions themselves are quite admirable.
I imagine that the album sounds much better when heard beneath the sound of your own sobbing, or during a cataclysmic mental breakdown. Strangely enough, most of the concert reviews I have read display nothing but praise for the transgendered vocalist. I suspect that the reviewer must possess some level of devotion to the music to even show up at such a performance.
There also seems to be a common theme surrounding Antony and the Johnsons music – that you either love it or hate it, and there’s no in-between. I hate it, and I must be in the minority, because Antony has won a Mercury Music Prize. This fact is one of the most amazing things I have ever read, as the often controversial UK-based award counts artists such as Portishead, Dizzee Rascal, PJ Harvey, Pulp, Franz Ferdinand, and Talvin Singh among its winners.
I don’t claim to be the most sophisticated music fanatic, but I do think that I can find the good in nearly any music and that I have a very open mind. Unfortunately there’s no room in there for Antony and the Johnsons.