Wednesday, 27 October 2010


Swanlights - Antony & The Johnsons

The 4th full length album from Antony Hegarty and his band The Johnsons (no sniggering at the back of the class) was something I was looking forward to reviewing as I'd been a fan since I heard "I'm A Bird Now" and although I felt the next EP and album were worthy inclusions neither of them reached the level of their predecessor. Although with this in mind I was still looking forward to "Swanlights".

The album begins in a haphazard manner that in some ways will underpin the whole album "Everything Is New" meanders along and although features a lot of Hegarty's trademarks doesn't really go anywhere. The album is lifted if only briefly with the track "The Great White Ocean" which reminds the listener of why they loved Antony & The Johnsons in the first place, with its heartfelt lyrics often sung through the tear stained vibrato in his voice although after the initial breakthrough seems to lose direction and energy and slows to a premature end. "Swanlights" continues on with "Ghost" and "I'm in Love" 2 tracks that never hit the mark (wherever they are aiming) "i'm In Love" especially which begins reminiscent of "Going Out" by Supergrass of all bands which shocked me into thinking my playlist had shuffled before Hegarty's voice wobbled into audio horizon. With "Violetta" clocking in at an unimpressive 35 secs it seems that the masterpiece I was preparing myself for seems to be falling through my fingers track by track.

Next in the firing line is the title track itself "Swanlights" which although admirably tries something new with its almost "Everything In It's Right Place" era Radiohead chopping and editing of the vocals lose the lyrics beneath the heavy use of organ and reverberated "oohs and aaahs". When writing this review I found it hard to understand why such an obviously below par record was made from someone so talented and top shelf as Antony & The Johnsons but it seems that the track "The Spirit Was Gone" answers these questions for me with its title although I hope its just a break rather than a permanent vacation.

The only passable single on "Swanlights" is "Thank You For Your Love" and so this is the case drums and steady backbeat have been included. Antony sings "when I was lost in the darkness, thank you for your love" harking back to the New York days when he first arrived. The most bankable track on the album although they aren't the type of band to trouble the top 10 any time soon.

Even "Fl├ętta" - FEAT BJORK comes as a welcome shot in the arm as a possible album saver although prominent in the track and stamping her personality over it doesn't hit the heights of "Boy George" or "Rufus Wainwright" from his second album "I'm A Bird Now" with its starts and stops and quirky arrangement that goes from almost whisper to building conclusion before trailing off may have been better suited to B-side. The album concludes with the double header of "Salt Silver Oxygen" and "Christina's Farm" that have much better titles than they deserve, the equivalent of a dog turd wrapped in fifties. "Christina's Farm" is the better of the two with its lone piano that gives a subtle flicker into what might have been, its still an end to a very mixed and confused album.

"Everything is new" the vocals sing but didn't convince me that the new is always better, "if it ain't not broke-don't fix it" should be something to consider in my opinion. Back to the drawing board and to woodshed those Nina Simone albums again….

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