173. Antony & The Johnsons – ‘Cripple And The Starfish’ (1998)

“I just completely love you
There’s no rhyme or reason
I’m changing like the seasons
Watch, I’ll even cut off my finger”

Taken from the album Antony & The Johnsons

When Antony & The Johnsons came to prominence I was about sixteen, and could barely understand the intense feelings and emotions behind a song like ‘Cripple And The Starfish’. Now I’m almost twenty and although lots has happened in those four years, I still can’t quite get my head around the song. It’s not so insular that I can’t break the shell at all, but there are complex thoughts here that I might never really comprehend.

What kind of hurt does one have to feel to desperate offer to cut off their finger as a symbol of devotion and honesty? To believe that the finger will “grow back like a starfish”? The chants of “I am very, very happy/So please hit me” and “Please hurt me” are painful enough, then there’s the chorus of “it’s true I always wanted love to be hurtful, it’s true I always wanted love to be filled with pain”. All the while the music lifts upwards and onwards while the lyrics spiral down.

Despite the very adult subject matter, it is dealt with in an innocent childlike way. “Mr. Muscle, forcing, bursting, stingy-thingy into little me me me” is an uncomfortable line on so many levels, made all the more disturbing by that lyrical delivery. Just like how Eminem talks about murder in baby talk on ”97 Bonnie & Clyde’, the same effect of broken innocence is apparent here. ‘Cripple And The Starfish’ is like a great dramatic film – it might disturb you in places and it may not leave you feeling great, but that can’t detract from the quality and genius in the way it is created.

Oddly illustrated audio:

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