It’s hard – and, to be truthful, faintly absurd – to believe it’s thirty-three years since Annie Anxiety first avalanched into our lives, an irresistible miniature bundle of dynamite apparently imported from New York into the world of the UK’s Crass fans, and then unleashed across 45 rpms of “Cyanide Tears.”
It… actually, both sides of it, bound as they were beneath the banner of Barbed Wire Halo… became one of the most deliciously intriguing singles of 1981. In an era when everyone from Soft Cell to Kraftwerk was topping the charts with their own interpretations of what electronic music could do, Annie came bleeping, mumbling and swaggering in, sassy across the sort of mutant soundtrack that the local electropack always said it dreamed of creating, but which it really was too busy chasing chart glory to perform. Imagine Can fronted by a No Wave Ari Up and you’re close. Ish. Close-ish.
Annie and the Asexuals, her teenaged late 1970s Max’s Kansas City band, was behind her now, and the Crass 45 quickly followed. Barbed Wire Halo could have presaged much, much more, but in the end it was just a glorious one-off, much as you’d expect anarcho-disco pop to be. But still Annie haunted the London club scene, a compulsive performance art installation who seemed forever to be a name that everybody knew, but who would need to percolate another few years before anybody found out why.
And then 1984 bought her first solo album, Soul Possession, and whatever zeitgeist lurked furthest beneath the facile frontage of London club land came slithering out alongside it. Check out the shattering energies of “Closet Love,” the spectral “Sad Shadows,” the confrontational harmonies of “Viet Not Mine, El Salvador Yours”; the dubbed torment of “Waiting for the Fun.” A child of its time though it now seems in places, it’s also one of the most crucial non On-U productions that Adrian Sherwood ever put his name to. (It was released on Corpus Christi). Among the others, of course, are the rest of his work with Annie Anxiety.
Through the remainder of the eighties and into the nineties too, Little Annie (as she now tended to be known) was responsible for what remains one of the most compulsive discographies of the age. Even if everything else evades your hunting (and her albums are not so easy to find anymore), beg, borrow or steal 1992’s Short and Sweet, again produced by Adrian Sherwood, and so perfectly poised on the brink of perfection that it still seems incredible that the remainder of the decade was not wholly cast in its image.
Although a lot of it was. It would be very easy to pack the rest of this page with a list of all the session appearances she made, but that’s what Wikipedia’s for. But Current 93, the Wolfgang Press and Lee Perry have all featured Annie in their art across the years, and when she stepped back from music in 1994 (following the sultry sway of the In Dread With Little Annie 12-inch, another stunning Sherwood production), a light really did go out in the world.
And was reignited first in Mexico, and then back in New York, where she threw herself as fervently into painting as she ever did in music. Occasionally, early on, you’d hear she’d done this or that with Kid Congo Powers, of Gun Club, Cramps and Bad Seeds fame, or that she’d gigged on a bill with Sister Boy… they played the Cooler together in summer ’96, for example. But in truth, it would be almost a decade before the most distinctive voice in dance stirred again, and even then only tentatively, sporadically – the 2002 EP Lullaby, the following year’s Legal Jammin’.
She wrote with Antony Hegarty and he co-produced her next album, the haunted torch of Songs from the Coalmine Canary. She gigged with Marc Almond, and recorded with pianist Paul Wallfisch. Go pester Youtube and you can find the pair duetting U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” transforming it into a stately dirge of Brechtian beauty, Lotte Lenya channeled through Marianne Faithful, delivered with the poise of Robert Wyatt and the panache of David Tibet. Even more recently, she and Baby Dee toured together behind a startling album called State of Grace. Needless to say, like every one of its predecessors, it deserves a corner in your record collection, in that extra special place where you like to keep the albums you regard as your most private pleasures, secret trinkets and gorgeously guiltless joyrides.
Not only all that, though, but there’s a new album coming. Two weeks ago, Little Annie launched a PledgeMusic campaign to finance a new record “inspired by determination, reinvention, and the future….” Go the page, and there’s also a great pitch video in which she threatens to spend all your donations on drugs, loose women and cigarettes, which he actually makes sounds perfectly reasonable, while cutting scenes of a walk through New York City with music and memories from a slew of past projects.
A raft of incentives range from an $8 download of the new album, through to $40 to download it, and seven of its predecessors. Other offers include her writings (an autobiography is forthcoming, immaculately entitled You Can’t Drink Milk While Singing The Blues), her art… there’s even a dinner date on offer, or a home visit from the lady herself.
But most of all, there’s the music. Past Little Annie albums should be tattooed to your earlobes; and the only time you can shift them is when it’s time to add another one. That time is now (almost) here.