Conceived as an introduction to Antony & the Johnsons' new full-length I Am A Bird Now (due February 1, 2005 on Secretly Canadian), The Lake consists of three songs, including the lead-off single to I Am A Bird Now, "Fistful of Love." Perhaps Antony & the Johnsons' finest work to date, the song features a scorching horn section and subcultural icon Lou Reed on vocals and searing lead guitar. In the tradition of subversive soul classics The Crystals' "He Hit me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)" and Millie Jackson's "Hurts So Good," Antony sings this ode to getting the shit kicked out of you and learning to love every minute of it. Could this be the overlooked theme song to J.T. Leroy's The Heart is Deceitful? The complex emotional undertow of this track reaches a cathartic roar by the song‚s finale. Antony shifts from a tremble to a wail - a tempest of emotion - while Lou makes that crucial Berlin connection.
Antony and Lou Reed are no strangers to one another. As a member of Reed's band, Antony accompanied him on his 2003 world tour as a vocalist. There Antony sang lead on the Velvet Underground classic "Candy Says" as well as on Reed's solo classic "Perfect Day". These performances are documented on Reed's latest double-live album Animal Serenade. Antony also contributed vocals for Reed's most recent album, The Raven.
"The Lake," the title track of the EP, is an adaptation of a poem by Edgar Allen Poe set to original music. Mystical folk hero Devendra Banhart included a live version of Antony's "The Lake" on the critically hailed compilation of new American music, The Golden Apples of the Sun. Pitchfork.com singled out Antony's track for glowing review, giving it 4.5 stars and calling it "breathtaking" and "powerful." The track features Kevin Barker of Currituck Co. on guitar and Julia Kent on cello, and is more subtle than the live recording; Antony murmurs the lyrics inwardly, communicating at once the longing, comfort, and existential fear evoked by the mythic lake. The EP closes out with a lullaby, The Horror Has Gone, a simple fable with a hypnotic melody.
A word should be said about the portrait of Candy Darling on the cover of "The Lake." This immortal close-up, entitled "Candy Darling on her Deathbed" is a never before published portrait of the famed Warhol superstar in hospital shortly before she died in 1974. The picture is one of a series taken by the late underground photographer Peter Hujar, a visionary artist.
(SC113 released: 11/02/04)