Saturday, June 6, 2009

H - Nina Hagen - "NunSexMonkRock"

This record is, without a doubt, one of the most bonkers, insane, ridiculous albums I own.

Carisa was a big fan of Nina Hagen, which is how I found out about her. She would play the cassette of “Nina Hagen in Ekstasy” often, and I came to love…well, appreciate…well, tolerate this most eccentric performer. Eventually, during the time I worked at Half Price Books, I got all of Nina’s albums through 1991 for Carisa (pretty cheaply too – the record buyer when I worked at the store on Waugh knew a lot about music prior to about 1978, but very little about modern material, especially punk/new wave, which enabled me to get a lot of hard to find stuff very inexpensively (99 cents minus my 50% off discount – whoo boy, I don’t think I made a penny during my first couple months of working at HPB because I was buying so much vinyl, videos, & books. It was a glorious time.) At some point, I bought two copies of “NunSexMonkRock”, so I kept one for myself, but never played it on my own until today.

Nina Hagen is a German singer who … well, she HAS songs, some even with verse/chorus/verse, but she doesn’t really sing in the conventional definition of the word. She CAN sing, but she also does a lot of weird voices. Strange voices. And noises too. Sometimes there are multiple overdubbed Ninas doing all kinds of bizarre things. She switches back and forth from English to German to what seems to be a made up Martian language, sometimes during the middle of a verse. often. And I have no earthly clue what she’s going on about most of the time. Maybe a safe comparison would be that she is like an art punk offspring of Yoko Ono & King Diamond but replacing ineffective avant gardisms, speed metal and hoaky Satanism with new wave flourishes, flashes of opera, & eastern mysticism chopped and skrewed to bits.

She begins the album with a parable about Jesus exorcising a demon from a man and putting it into a pig (“und the pig was running away SSCCRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREAMING!”) before launching into “AntiWorld”; though I can’t tell you what the song is about, I can say that the unsettling operatic voices mixed with grunts entertained me to no end. This record is full of surprises, because Nina’s vocals are very unpredictable (sometimes to the point of aggravation), and the lyric sheet is no help whatsoever. “Smack Jack” is anti-heroin, and “Born in Xixax” could be an anti-war song. I’ve never been much of a lyrics fella, myself. My favorites are “Anti-World”, “Taitshi Tarot”, “Future’s Now”, and “Dr. Art”.

You are saying to yourself, “what about the music?” It’s pretty standard post-punk stuff – a little hardcore, a little dance beat, a little seltzer down your pants, & a couple synth heavy numbers (one sounds like Phillip Glass, another like Suicide) (the band, not the act) (though too much Nina exposure might lead you to the latter). The formality of the music makes Nina sound even more insane. What’s also insane is that Paul Schaffer is on this album playing synthesizer. As this record came out in 1982, Paul was already Letterman’s second banana, so he may have been working on this while cracking bad jokes on TV. Jeepers… (Bonus links: maybe Nina & Paul reminisced backstage about the old days:
(no performance, sadly, but this one does, and partners Nina with Don Rickles:)

Nina is still out there – promoting vegetarianism, peace, and UFO’s. She was actually in Houston not long ago, and I missed it. Too bad, because she’s a superfreak and it must’ve been a pretty cool show.

Verdict: I can’t imagine listening to this record often, but will remain speechless when I do. And I’ll be laughing hysterically.

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