Friday, April 4, 2014

Nina Hagen - Nunsexmonkrock

Released in 1982 - the same year as Kate Bush's landmark album The Dreaming was issued - Nina Hagen's Nunsexmonkrock is probably best described as the crazy German cousin of that Bush offering. It is a widely epic statement that uses genres as its personal bitch, executed by an artist with a stunning, non-traditional vocal range that bounces between terror and beauty in seconds.

And it starts that way with the very first song, "Antiworld," featuring tribal drums beats and Middle Eastern tones, all while Hagen bounces off reverberated versions of herself-each one a demonic and terrifying force. Compared to The Dreaming's opener "Sat In Your Lap," Hagen gets the nod for straight up intimidation. It's unlike anything you've ever heard, and it's the first song on the fucking album.

Cut two "Smack Jack" begins with polite early 80's rhythms and it sucks you into its familiar spaces of synthesizers and cleanly strummed guitars. All good until Hagen begins singing like an elderly Eastern European Jewish grandmother with throat cancer and possessed by the devil. She howls underneath in another overdubbed voice and by the chorus she speeds up the tempo to a gallop and begins screaming "Shoot it  up, smack jack!" It's incredible drama, and even Hagen agrees with yet another voice appearing from the corners with the observation, "Junkies...are very sentimental."

"Taitschi-Tarot" channels Yoko Ono excercises quite nicely as thoughts on reincarnation. It leads into Hagen's tip-toes into the heavy metal arena with wails that are an octive higher than Maiden's Bruce Dickenson and run right next to an opera Hagen that's dubbed on top of the whole mess.

By the end  of Nunsexmonkrock, we've been professionally introduced to her infant daughter Cosma Shiva Hagen, an array of childlike voices, an eerie male demon, and five minutes on the subject of UFOs ("You are not alone!! Remember, it's true!!") underneath a mechanical syncopated beat.

Yes, Nunsexmonkrock can be an overwhelming barrage of voices, noises, and genres all lobbed together in a package that questions both Hagen's sanity and her own place in the world of recorded music. Because, quite honestly, the only other person I can think of who's accomplished this level of uncompromising music has a last name of Beefheart or Ubu. Shouldn't we be placing Hagen in the same breath?

Nunsexmonkrock makes a great case that we should.

"1968 is over!" Hagen reminds us, before screaming "Future is Now!" and some thirty years later, it still hasn't arrived, even when the spaceshit can be found right in the grooves of this warped masterpiece.

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