Jan 26, 2011 Web Exclusive
One can’t blame Geoff Barrow (Portishead, BEAK>) for wanting to team with political journalist-turned-singer Annika Henderson. All blonde locks and elongated syllables, she is unquestionably a modern-day Nico. However, lacking both the control and originality of the late German chanteuse, Anika fails to rise above this comparison. Still, she is not the problem here. Be it enthusiasm or experimentation, Barrow surrounds (and ultimately drowns) Anika with what feels like the leftover scraps of every record session he’s ever staged. Rather than edgy or mysterious, it simply registers as loud and monotonous—the sort of cacophony a two-year-old armed with pots and pans might create.
While Andy Warhol worked with his muse, the disconnect between Anika and Barrow alternates between comedic and grating— a mere gesture painting of a Portishead at its finest. Few tracks rise above Barrow’s need to throw everything against the wall to see what sticks. Opening track “Terry” manages to overcome the album’s noisy ambitions with the use of guitars and a piano riffs that boarder on jazzy, but it is the single hold out—an actual song amidst meandering experiments. On the flip side, the worst of the worst is “The End of the World,” which features a grating electronic screech and an after-thought layer of drumbeats, Anika reduced to delivering her performance from the back of what sounds like a tin-lined shack.
Perhaps all this could have been justified with a strong show of songwriting. Not so. Largely an album of covers, Anika and Barrow drain all originality from their source material, rendering them atonal at best (“I Go to Sleep”), and annoying at worst. Do we really need a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” so discordant it sounds like its being recorded during the actual end of the world? (To say nothing of the dub version of the track—whose sole advantage is being four minutes shorter.) A mighty attempt at thinking outside the box, ultimately Anika is simply an attempt at sound and fury, signifying nothing. (www.stonesthrow.com/anika)
Author rating: 3/10
Average reader rating: 5/10