Record Review: Anne Clark – Pressure Points UK CD

anne clark - pressure points UK CD cover

10 Records ‎| UK | CD | 1986 | DIX CD 18

Anne Clark: Pressure Points UK CD [1986]

  1. Heaven
  2. Red Sands
  3. Alarm Call
  4. Tide
  5. The Interruption
  6. The Power Game
  7. World Without Warning
  8. Bursting
  9. Lovers Retreat

It was 1985 and I was finally of the opinion that John Foxx was The Artist and Midge Ure was The Craftsman after four years of holding them each in roughly symmetrical regard. Foxx had begun his solo career with the ultimate cold wave of “Metamatic” but had experienced considerable thaw over the course of his subsequent career. That year, his fourth solo album was the Van Morrison-like “In Mysterious Ways,” and I bought it on LP and didn’t have to wait much longer before this album appeared in the import bins of Peaches Records + Tapes, if I recall correctly.

I can’t remember why I investigated this Anne Clark album but it may have come down to an employee affixed sticker to the import bag trumpeting the salient fact that “Pressure Points” had been produced by John Foxx. Either that or I didn’t recognize Ms. Clark and examined the album more closely and saw the producer’s credit on the back cover. It immediately came home with me, of course! Once I opened the LP and looked at the inner sleeve my interest turned to something more as I saw that not only did Foxx produce eight of the nine tracks, but he also wrote all of the music on the A side of the disc as well! How could this miss, whatever it turned out to be?

anne clark - heaven UK 12" coverWhat it turned out to be was the fourth album by poet Anne Clark; who made records of her reciting [definitely not singing] her poems along with musical accompaniment. This time out she had engaged my favorite artist to compose as well as produce. It began with the dramatic single “Heaven.” Foxx had continued to work in the idiom that he had brought to the concurrent album “In Mysterious Ways.” Synths and slap bass over Linn Drum but where the vibe on his album had been largely bucolic and blissful, the mood here was tense, urgent, and cinematic.

This music sounded as if it was of a piece with the outlier “This Side Of Paradise” from his own album carried through more fully here. The pulsating synths were a perfect accompaniment for the almost strident tone that Ms. Clark brought to the words of bitter disappointment as heaven moved “further and further away.” The climax of the song was Foxx at his most florid as the descending piano and ascending string patches ultimately climaxed with the beefiest, most reverberant synth riff I’d heard in a long time having the last, memorable, word.

Then the energy accelerated even more for the subsequent “Red Sands.” It felt like the urgency of Foxx’s “My Wild Love” had become frantic as nearly double speed drums and jittery bass synth reflected the violent struggle and hostility that the words manifested. The sampled orchestration and strings of “Alarm Call” traded the tumultuous energy for something more calm and centered, even as Ms. Clark had shifted her concern from an external to an internal conflict.

Similarly, “Tide” featured piano and gentle string patches over a slow tempo drumbeat that suggested something approaching a carefree state. But the words told another story. One where a “lone figure walks beside a restless shore, always scared.” “The Interruption” closed out side one on a dark and pensive note with minor key choral synth patches and the ever present Linn Drum carving out a steady marching beat.

The revisit of the earlier song “The Power Game” took the song into a larger space with rhythmic string patches and a much fuller sound than on the earlier recording that moved into chamber pop territory. This was the one track not produced by John Foxx, but it was nonetheless a highlight. The words sting even 34 years later. Especially today. The rhythmic strings continued on the dismissive isolation of “World Without Warning.”

The program next took a rare turn for the euphoric with the incredible track “Bursting.” The surprisingly erotic poem was built upon fantastic rhythm programming that danced among the synths like butterflies. I’d swear that the hi-hat programming was a glimpse into drum + bass seven years early. The closing “Lovers Retreat” followed and seemed like a perfect coda following “Bursting” in the way that it did. The music almost had the glimmer of hope necessary to begin each day anew even as the words posited the haven of a lover where “we’ll find some moments of happiness between sheets we’ve known so often. The warmest place in this hostile town.”

This album held a largely dour worldview. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of Anne Clark smiling! But that’s not what she’s here for. Her poetry was about finding strength against outrage and taking what small solace she can find in this difficult world. Her accusatory and challenging tone was a valid stance during the Thatcher era and has only grown more necessary over time, obviously. I went on to buy further Anne Clark albums which I also enjoy, but the bonus of music and production by John Foxx made this a perfect introduction to this artist. It almost managed to function as the antithesis to the extreme romanticism of the adjoining “In Mysterious Ways” album that was released at almost the same time.

– 30 –

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9 Responses to Record Review: Anne Clark – Pressure Points UK CD

  1. Mel Creighton says:

    The only song I heard from her was Hope Road. It was played constantly on a Sydney radio station when I was there in 1988. Now I have to hunt this down and buy it. Thanks for the tip!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Mel Creighton – “Hope Road” was from her next album, “Hopeless Cases,” and was a great single. But after that CD I never saw another Anne Clark album again. She was on Ten Records for this album and the next two but she had a run after that on German SPV where she seems to have had her greatest success. Such an earnest and questioning artist. An anomaly in the 80s, apart from Billy Bragg. And she’s nothing like him.


  2. Mathmandan says:

    Check out her tracks “Sleeper in Metropolis” and “Abuse.” No John Foxx involvement, but nice synth work and definitely among her best work.


  3. Andy B says:

    I’m a massive John Foxx fan but I’ve never heard this album. I knew he produced it but didn’t realise he was so heavily involved in the creative process. I’m going to have to try and get to hear this.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Andy B – There are no musicians credits on the album but I suspect that it was the same personnel as on “In Mysterious Ways.” There is a little guitar, bass and probably Foxx himself on synths/Linn Drum.


      • slur says:

        Musicians credited on the inner sleeve of my LP version:
        All music of side 1 by John Foxx
        All music of side 2 by Jim Manray, Steve Kilbourne, John Nyles, Toni Koreyki
        except The Power Game by David Harrow
        All Text Anne Clark


        • postpunkmonk says:

          slur – That’s also on the CD [I bought the LP first but foolishly sold it off upon buying the CD in 1986]. I took that as meaning the writing of the songs, not necessarily the playing.


  4. Pierre says:

    Enjoying your review! I’ve come totally opposite direction. Having bought various of her records over the last 25 years and seeing her live 3 times, it was only today that I stumbled upon “Pressure Points”! Never heard any of these tracks before in their original versions. Finding the record in the 5€ bin in mint condition and reading „produced by John Foxx“ I was like – whoa! – how didn’t I know this! I love John Foxx. Some spins later: Yes, it definetly sounds like John Foxx. It also has a -maybe Blade-Runnerish- cinematic feel. But sadly I don’t think the collaboration adds any quality to her work. And I really don’t like the instumentation on “Red Sands” at all. This Synth/Guitar mix feels sooo dated, while all of her other (and earlier) work feels rather timeless, even now in 2022. While “Heaven” is a good song, I definetly prefer the B-Side. I don’t know how she felt about this, but I’m glad she reunited with David Harrow for Hopeless Cases. After listening to “John Foxxes Anne Clark” I appreciate David Harrow’s work with her even more – so minimal and cold, still so well-composed and refreshing. Stick to your guns!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Pierre – Welcome to the comments! Incredible that as an Anne Clarke fan you just came across this! After buying this album in 1985, I found “Trilogy” on CD and the then current “Hopeless Cases.” Unfortunately, I’ve not see another Anne Clarke CD. I have to wonder what the impetus was for Foxx to have produced her. He’s done very little outside work. The Antena single of “The Boy From Ipanema” comes to mind, apart from his own projects. I can’t say I’ve ever heard him speak of producing Ms. Clarke.


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