Antony & The Johnsons – ‘Cut The World’

Antony Hegarty’s angelic voice soars on live album

In 2008, New Yorker Antony Hegarty lent his vox to the Hercules & Love Affair song ‘Blind’. The universe went nuts for it, and it was seen as a breather from the painful prettiness of Hegarty’s usual work. Which was unfair. His only crime as leader of Antony & The Johnsons was making music that was almost too perfect, so it made this flirtation with hedonistic disco feel pleasingly dirty.

But now he’s back to beauty on ‘Cut The World’, a live album recorded in Copenhagen in 2011 with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra. It’s everything you’d expect. ‘Future Feminism’ is a seven-minute, spoken-word piece that begins with Antony saying, “I’ve been thinking all day about the moon” and drifts into a think piece touching on topics such as “Jesus as a girl” and “Buddah as a mother”. A&TJ’s 1998 single ‘Cripple And The Starfish’ gets updated as a string symphony, while ‘You Are My Sister’ makes full use of the oboe and ‘Kiss My Name’ is given a thrust of percussion. They all sound better than the originals.

Hegarty’s songs and personality suit the drama of orchestral arrangements, providing him with the perfect platform to ‘perform’ rather than sing – and his voice works in perfect harmony with the 42 musicians behind him. He sounds particularly angelic on closer ‘Twilight’, which at times sounds like something aggy German composer Wagner would’ve been into.

If you’ve come here looking for fresh blood, the 100 per cent new brass-backed title track should sate you (everything else is taken from the Johnsons’ four albums). And if you’ve ever lusted after Hegarty’s work re-imagined as The Snowman soundtrack, shit’s about to get real.

Tom Howard