Random notes: Antony sings; the Surfer … surfs?
Listening to Antony and the Johnsons' "I Am A Bird Now," in near-constant rotation on Radio Nik the past couple weeks. I'd heard about this 2005 album a fair amount but never checked out any of the music, until I was listening to Björk's new CD Volta, which boasts a duet with Antony on it. He has a fantastic, unearthly warble of a voice, straddling genders and with an almost unbearably sad undertone to it. It's a bit like Jeff Buckley crossed with Nina Simone. His androgynous voice drove me to check out his album "I Am A Bird Now," which is kind of like a cabaret set in the world of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." The opening track on this disc, "Hope There's Someone," just knocks me in the gut in the way few songs can – utterly heartbroken and naked, a gorgeous lament or eulogy. (You can find an mp3 of this stunning tune right here.) And the rest of the disc is nearly as good – intricately arranged songs of love and remorse, a kind of passion play of sadness all orbiting Antony's alien voice. Genders are interchangable, as when he sings "My Lady Story" or "For Today I Am A Boy" (which starts out, "One day I'll grow up, I'll be a beautiful woman"). The music varies between spartan and orchestrated majesty, but always is designed to heighten Antony's voice. If the "Hunky Dory"-era David Bowie had started his career in 2000 instead of 1970, he might well be making music like this. Guest appearances by Lou Reed, Boy George and Rufus Wainwright help lend hipster outsider cred. While there's a true melancholy underpinning all of "I Am A Bird Now," there's also a crystalline, haunting beauty. Highly recommended stuff.
...Watching "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer." While this one won't win any Oscars, it's a terrific popcorn flick, and a lot better than the muddled first one, I thought. In its way it's really faithful to the idea of the classic Lee and Kirby comics it's based on – get in, throw around some humorous family conflict, have a ton of action, get out again in 90 tidy minutes. This one had a much more epic feeling than the first movie, with a nifty globe-trotting plot and the enjoyable presence of the Silver Surfer, brought wonderfully to life I thought. These FF movies take themselves a lot less seriously than most of the current comic book wave, which can be refreshing (and occasionally annoying when it doesn't work). Sure, they're not entirely faithful to the comic book, but you can't really nitpick every detail to death (although without that diversion, what would so many fanboys do with their lives?). This flick was far more entertaining in my eyes than the overblown, convoluted 3-hour "Pirates" franchise, for example. The acting is still fairly wooden, save Chris Evans' terrific Human Torch, and they just can't make the stretching powers of Mr. Fantastic look realistic at all, can they? Biggest disappointment for me in these two movies is how badly they've bungled Dr. Doom, comics' finest villain, as a generic cackling madman without a plan (although the final battle with him in this one was fun, with its imagery lifted directly from the comics). All in all though, a pleasant time at the flicks. I'd give it a solid B grade.