Label: Rough Trade Release date: 30/08/10 Link: Official Site For whatever reason, Antony and the Johnsons seem to be a divisive band. I say “for whatever reason” because all signs point to this project being massively popular – major critical notice and affection, popular and avant-garde endorsements, and illustrious collaborations (like his work on Björk’s last LP). But when the voice delivering these otherwise critically acclaimed compositions and lyrics has a tendency to warble wildly, akin to a Marc Bolan for the darkest of chamber pop, suddenly the true division is seen. With their new Thank You For Your Love EP, Mr. Hegarty and his cast of musicians seem bent on fulfilling the needs of diehards who want a fix while quelling the naysayer with some surprising touches and choices that seem to hint at a final development of the band’s style. Immediately notable is the pure use of dynamics and stylistic shift that really does shock the song to life, making the title track jump from a sombre ballad to a Motown-esque horn jam with some very clever and classy vocal additions. All in all, this song seems to be a response to previous singles like ‘Aeon’ and ‘Epilepsy Is Dancing,’ focusing more on active shifts instead of three to seven minute ruminations on the subject at hand. While the main draw is that pure energy and liveliness that shows a conscious move, the lyrics are deceptively simple and earnest – utilizing simple repetition to let the music really speak. Shame that ‘You Are My Treasure’ and ‘My Lord My Love’ abandons that idea to give us some typical fare. This is hardly a complaint or even anger, for ‘My Lord My Love’ actually has some of Antony’s best melisma work on record. Hell, he sounds just plain impassioned and yearning in these songs. For all the happiness and conclusion that a phrase like, “Thank you for your love” carries, the pure antithesis of ‘You are the treasure, you are the dream, you are the one I have been waiting for’ is shocking. No more I love you’s, instead this is looking for the treasure while placing and praising it pre-emotively. Really where this EP loses points (and boy, it drops ‘em like flies) are the covers that fuck up the B-side. Dylan’s ‘Pressing On’ has never sounded as lugubrious and forced as here, Antony almost forcing the arrangement to be as anti-Dylan as possible while sounding like Antony. Mild vibraphone, acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, and Hegarty front and center all combine to really just create a lullaby. It’s sub par Sam Amidon (only from his second disc on, that pre-Muhly debut doesn’t count this time), what with the music sounding like it was taken from Amidon’s version of ‘Relief’ then slowed down and run through the Modernity Machine. Oh, and now here’s my flame fodder: There has never been a good cover of ‘Imagine’. Ok, A Perfect Circle actually did the song some justice (but Maynard is to thank), but think about it – Glee (with a fucking deaf choir), Avril Lavigne, Jack Johnson, Gregorian (yes, the chanting monks), and some dude from American Idol have all raped this beautiful tune in their own ways with about a dozen other popular artists and millions of shitty amateurs with acoustic guitars who idolize Lennon’s genius. Antony here makes it a song with shifting focus, primarily first person but with breaks in the right places to really speak to the listener…or some crap like that. Seriously, with just acoustic guitar and some ambience/feedback/Basinski-for-idiots over the vocal track, it sounds like a bedroom demo. Nothing here is worth noting or caring about, no matter how good Pitchfork says this cover is. Words cannot express how bored and unmoved I was by the end of the 4’36” that is this song. It is a waste of zeroes and ones as far as I’m concerned. Yes, if Antony continues to go like the first three (stellar) songs here, the next album will be a work of art. As a person who actually likes Antony’s voice and the delicate chamber music around it, this really does gear me up for whatever’s next. I’ll just delete those last two songs and pretend they never really happened. Or I’ll turn to Dirty Projectors for my warbly voiced Dylan covers. Photobucket