Friday, October 14, 2005

nice to hold when i'm tired.

so you know when a piece of music just hits you over the head, sends you just spinning into this other space, and when you finally emerge from the stratosphere you just aren't same anymore?

last thursday i was looking around Amazon to see if Laurie Anderson's United States of America was still available on cd (which it was), and i started reading the reviews of Strange Angels, which is one of the few albums of hers i don't have. i downloaded it and, almost as an afterthought stuck Antony and the Johnson's I Am A Bird Now onto my order. i had read the article in the New York TImes Magazine about him, and based on that, i was intrigued.

in the intervening week, it swallowed me whole. i did love Strange Angels, it was Laurie Anderson in all her quirkiness. but I Am A Bird Now was the one i could not put down if i tried. one play through, and after 35 short minutes, i was back at the beginning, wanting more, loving the first three songs, then two more, until i finally loved all of them in their strange, elegant, primitive beauty.

so imagine Nina Simone being reincarnated in the body of a gay six foot tall bald androgynous transvestite. he has it all there: that distinctive vibrato, the timing and delivery, but instead of Simone's force, there's just a delicateness to his voice, almost like it's wafting, floating maybe, about to smash and break into a thousand little pieces. and sadness, such sadness and loss and regret. most of the songs address his desire to be a woman, which sounds silly on paper, but is just captivating in a way that i can't quit explain. he sounds like a woman when he sings, "one day i'll grow and be a beautiful woman / one day i'll grow up and be a beautiful girl / but for today i am a child / for today i am a boy", but you know he's not, and that just makes it strangely sad, but with an undercurrent of hope, something that runs through the whole album. he's not whole, he's not where he wants to be, but he knows he'll get there.

it's an interesting and unusual perspective to equate being male with being a child, and to associate adulthood and maturity with women. not many people come from that place, and definitely not many men.

his piano work is the perfect complement to his voice. it actually reminds me a little of Cat Power in the simplicity and power of its delivery. there are some gospel touches that work really well. there's also a collection of guest appearances (Boy George, Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright) that add rather than detract from the songs (a rare thing, i've found).

and now i must curse being in Houston for one moment, because last night he played Carnegie fucking Hall for twenty three fucking dollars a ticket. dammit.

i still haven't downloaded his other work, mostly thanks to a recent yarn bender on Ebay. sigh. i think it may be a good thing in the end. i need to absorb it all slowly, very slowly.

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