Tread warily, record buyer. In an effort to have something – anything – fresh on the shelves to coincide with Antony’s Meltdown curatorship, along comes Cut the World. A selection of live recordings from Antony’s 2011 concert collaboration with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, bolstered by one new studio recording (the title track), it’s disappointingly less than the sum of its parts.
With very few, usually personal exceptions (we’ll stake a claim for Johnny Cash at San Quentin and Modern Lovers ‘Live’), the live album is, of course, invariably only of interest to the hardcore fan. Even what seemed in first person to be a phenomenal night out can often, with a click through YouTube a few days later, seem surprisingly mundane in the light of day.
In a misjudged focus on its star, Cut the World dispenses with crowd noise, fading at the close of each song before the applause kicks in. There’s no atmosphere. It’s only at the close, after a beautifully judged Twilight, that the cheering is allowed in. Otherwise, you wouldn’t know you’d been listening to a live album.
As a result, this record has no function. Antony & the Johnsons’ run of studio albums were never short of orchestral embellishments in the first place. These symphonic versions reveal little that wasn’t already present, and the uniformity of tone becomes soporific way before the close.
The spoken word piece Future Feminism, again recorded in concert, is also less interesting than this album’s compilers think it is. Antony talks softly and humorously through some of his opinions on gender, religion, environment and politics, and the audience laugh along, but there’s over seven minutes of this before an abrupt fade. He’s a thoughtful and generous speaker, but you wouldn’t want to hear it more than once.
Cut the World, the song, is gorgeous though. It should have been a single. The rest of this is b-sides.