The re-issue of Anna Domino’s first full length should be welcomed with open arms. This is a disc of classic mid-eighties East meets West pop.
Anna is an American who was born in Tokyo and traveled in Europe a bit before spending her teenage years in Ottawa, Canada. This Album was her only release on Factory Records. The bulk of her other releases were put out by the Belgian label, Les Disques du Crepuscule.
She has admittedly, had a larger impact on music scenes in Western Europe and Japan than in North America. However, she did sing on a The The album and on the song Here in My Heart as part of Stephin Merrit’s 6ths project.
The Belgian pop and rock archives describes her manner of signing as “...Incredibly cool and low sexy voice." Or, as it was once described in the magazine Smart "The voice of the erotic, tense, despairing, Peggy Lee-meets-Nico, thinking woman -i.e., postmodern platinum.” This is a good starting place for Anna’s work. She recalls a kind of hot but stimulating fever dream.
It is too easy to say that her presence is sultry or latin jazz influenced, she is all and none of these things. The first half of the album grows on you slowly with its downbeat syndrums and sparse horn section. From the beginning, the songs, Rythm (misspelling is intentional), which has Steven Brown of Tuxedomoon on clarinet, and Caught are my favorite. The mid-point of the disc is the track Summer.
The bulk of the songs on this CD have lyrics that come from a deep sense of despair, from an acknowledgement of the emotional tension that comes with life’s little changes. Overall the songs aren’t particularly happy ones as they range from subjects such as madness, loss and abuse. However, more often than not, emotional honesty can produce perfect pop.
This album ends with the absolute classic masterpiece Take That, which should awaken a new generation of listeners to her talent. Musically this song seems to owe a heavy debt to Alan Rankine as it strikes me as similar to the arrangements he did for The Associates.
The bonus tracks on this re-issue are worth the price of admission alone. The include Anna’s cover of the old American Folk Song Sixteen Tons —which sounds relevant in any decade. I should also mention the track Zanna which was the fruit of her collaboration with Luc Van Acker. It is a resonant dark pop song that is a classic in Belgium. (Luc Van Acker went on to work with more Industrial artists such as Ministry and Revolting Cocks.)
This disc is a perfect way to re-discover Anna Domino’s work. It is a seminal pop album.
Rythm, Caught, Take That, Sixteen Tons, Half of Myself, Target, Zanna, Summer (12" Mix)