A Young Person’s Guide To… Nina Hagen (Part III)

Nina Hagen (Part III)
By Tommy Mostalas 

Dedicated to T.H Kovalevsky

Om Namah Shivay! (1999)
Strange thing this, but it turns out that one of the best records that Nina Hagen ever released, aside of course from the magisterial ‘nunsexmonkrock’, just happened to be an album of devotional chants to Shiva that was sung almost exclusively in Sanskrit. I’m talking of course of 1999’s fantastic ‘Om Namah Shivay!’ 

I have to hold my hands up though and admit to being somewhat dubious on first hearing about the album, imagining that it would be some kind of vanity project, y’know the usual tacky and insensitive New Age dreich. However I recall that when I first told a friend of my intention to review Hagen’s discography a few months back she immediately singled out this album to me and told me how much it had helped her through a recent rough patch. And indeed ‘Om Namah Shivay!’ figures as something of a revelation, a deeply compelling introduction to a centuries old tradition of worship and praise, that doesn’t sound at all out of place as a work of popular music.

Now prior to this, I’d only heard Hindu devotional vocal music a few times — and almost always in Indian music stores in Leicester while searching out Bollywood film DVDs. I have to say that on those occasions, I actually really enjoyed it. But daunted by the scale and breadth of the tradition — mostly a question of not knowing where to start — and wary of drifting off into New Age-y waters I hesitated about following up on my interest. Fortunately ‘Om Namah Shivay!’ has had the very positive effect of making me completely re-evaluate my previous cautiousness. 

On an initial, cursory, listen there is little that is distinctively Hagenesque about the album and Nina’s voice seems to rather lose itself in the blend of distinctively sacral, ceremonial elements. Further listens quickly reveal the unmistakable, sensual heft of that voice, however. 

The record starts off — as I assume is ritualistically correct— with the shank invocation, an extended note blown on a shankha conch shell, divine symbol of female fertility due to its strong resemblance to the vulva (source: Wikipedia). This is followed by an resonant, earthy aum on the didgeridoo accompanied by a solitary male chant. If the starkness of that first chant and the drone that succeeds it, expanding endlessly outwards into cold black space, are somewhat disorientating to the uninitiated listener, then the next track, floating in on the warm comforting tones of a harmonium, is far more welcoming. A hymn to Durga, one of the multitude of forms taken on by the mother goddess, it consists of a litany of seven hundred names of praise (it seems less but I’ve not sat there and counted them all); indeed the name of the track is literally ‘700 Names In Praise Of Mother Durga’. Other album highlights include such ecstatic bhakti earworms as ‘Shri Siddha Siddeshvari Mata Haidhakandeshvariji Aarati!’ and ‘Jai Mata Kali Jai Mata Durge!’, along with the fabulous Hindu-ska crossover of ‘He Shiva Shankara!’ — and that’s just a selection of the glittering jewels on offer.  

One thing that might catch you a little off guard about ‘Om Namah Shivay’ is how familiar these hymns sound, despite the ‘exotic’ cultural trappings of the music, the relative unfamiliarity of the language and the beliefs that undergird everything — and just how uncanny that feeling of familiarity can sometimes be. But then I suppose that’s the whole point of it: the music is meant to be instantaneously familiar, to sound like you’ve been hearing it your whole life. The deep feelings of resonance provoked by the music also breed a sense of calm and reassurance: and not that facile approximation that seems to characterize most New Age muzak. Indeed Hagen should be applauded for producing an album that avoids the usual demeaning New Age cliches so often resorted to by musicians in search of a bit of easy Eastern inspiration. 

But you can’t help but ask: aside from her vocals — vocals that as I mentioned above soon become distinctive in the overall mantric mix, but that are still not the focal point of the music — how much did Nina actually contribute to the music itself and to its arrangement? To what extent did she merely take a centuries old tradition of worship and simply transplant it to a recording studio? I am far from being qualified to answer that, and the question seems slightly churlish even if it is unavoidable. I will say this though, tracks like ‘Hare Krsna Hare Rama!’ sound remarkably soulful to me and it feels as if Nina, given with her familiarity with soul and gospel actively sought to accentuate the resonances between the two devotional traditions. 

Potential socio-cultural quibbles aside, this is a wonderful record, and, to my mind, one of the crowning achievements of Hagen’s career. (9/10).

Return of the Mother (2000) 
Sadly ‘Return of the Mother’ is really just a return to the dreariness and half-arsedness of Nina Hagen’s 80s/90s output, after the somewhat dazzling respite of her previous two releases. The title track demonstrates a good deal of pep, even if it is essentially just industrial-by-numbers. The rest is a soggy melange of lacklustre beats — beats that were well past their sell by date at the turn of the millennium — and a slightly dazed, woozy sounding Hagen. OK maybe that’s slightly unfair, her voice is probably the best part of the record. But the songs let her down, and they let her down massively.  Oh so forgettable (3/10). 

Big Band Explosion (2003),  Irgendwo auf der Welt (2006)
I don’t know if you’ll remember — some of you won’t of course because you weren’t even alive then or at least hadn’t started on solids yet — but around the turn of the millennium swing-era big band music became a major part of the plastic pop zeitgeist thanks to the likes of Michael Bublé, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Gap marketing department, pre-millennial masters in the art of corporate conformity. Nina Hagen, too, allowed herself to be swept along on the wave, trying her hand at big band music on two early 00’s releases, the second one better than the first.

2003’s ‘Big Band Explosion’ finds Nina coming to artistic terms with a voice that like fine vintage leather has been rendered distinguished and slightly creaky with age, but without ever doing really anything interesting with it. For, despite Hagen’s attempts at irreverence and her forced zaniness (see for instance her weird and entirely uncalled for wheezing goblin coda to ‘The Lady Loves Me’) ‘BBE’ is a disappointingly trite run through the old, familiar — indeed by now tiresomely familiar — standards.  In quite poor taste alas (4/10).

A considerable improvement on ‘Big Band Explosion’, 2003’s ‘Irgendwo auf der Welt’ boasts a real feeling of warmth thanks to the sensitivity and naturalness of Hagen’s interpretations (in contrast to the flatness of the performances on the previous record) and the luxurious carpet of sound laid out by the Capital Dance orchestra. ‘Irgendwo’ works well as a hearkening back to a long vanished age of decadence that, in hindsight, seems so precarious under the shadow of impending global catastrophe, but whose music now sounds quaint and strangely desexualised. Still Hagen does it so much more justice this time round (7/10). 

Personal Jesus (2010)
If the previous two records marked a definitive turn from original material towards covers (which, let’s face it, isn’t all that much of a tragedy) then 2010’s ‘Personal Jesus’ marked a clear, religious, turn away from Shiva and Durga Ma and towards Jesus Christ as saviour. Musically this shift manifested itself in an album of stripped down blues and gospels covers, and of course Depeche Mode are in there too. It’s all eminently forgettable with Nina often sounding distant and strangely lethargic, although Hagen’s full blooded rendition ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ does give curious listeners something of a hint as to how actually good this record could have been if the Holy Spirit had actually been on her side. (5/10)

Volksbeat (2011)
Two important lessons that I’ve learned from listening to the Hagen discography. The first is to never completely write Hagen off. She may have inflicted the likes of ‘Street’, ‘Fearless’, ‘Return of the Mother’ and ‘Revolution Ballroom’ on a, mercifully, indifferent public; but for every four or five such horrors she’s always managed to redeem herself with an album the likes of ‘Nunsexmonkrock’, ‘FreuD euch’, and ‘Om Nama Shivay!’ — not an exceptional ratio it’s true, but still within the bounds of respectability. ‘Volksbeat’, a very welcome return to the punky form of ‘FreuD euch’ after the indifference of ‘Personal Jesus’, fits rather snugly in the latter category. 

The second of the two lessons concerns the language situation: namely, take it as a rule of thumb that Hagen singing in German will generally be much better bet than Hagen singing in English. ‘Volksbeat’ for instance finds our beloved proto-punk diva greatly revitalised and positively revelling in her mother tongue, demonstrating the kind of flair that puts late 80s/early 90’s Hagen truly to shame. The album contains a number of covers in German of English-language songs, including two by Christian rock pioneer Larry Norman, one by the Christian band Sonseed, and ‘One More Cup of Coffee’ (or ‘Noch Ein Tässchen Kaffee’ as it is in the old Deutsch) by Bob Dylan who was a Christian for a few years back there. Nina’s excellent punk cover of Seal’s ‘Killer’ and the full-on Ska blast of her Sonseed cover, ‘Jesus ist ein Freund von mir’, both demonstrate that Hagen’s humour is finally back at its best (Nina’s clearing her throat to hawk up phlegm at the end of ‘Killer’ is a truly delectable and perverted pleasure). 

The energy of those early Nina Hagen Band releases is here in droves but this time the band feels tighter and has stamina enough to keep pace with Hagen’s driving enthusiasm.  At the end of the day ‘Volksbeat’ is good clean honest Christian fun and serves as ample compensation for ‘Personal Jesus’’s irresolution. No such hesitancy here. Long may the Mother of Punk reign. (8/10)

VANGELIS – Oceanic (1996)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Alex Alex

Apart from tacky cover art, the 90s were also the decade of new age music made by weird Euro guys. But I like the smiling mermen and women on the cover here, they look far too happy and wholesome and really not sinister at all, and due to this I think they wouldn’t fit in well enough in some Sinbad or Odysseus tale, which is where you would expect your merfolk to show up.

Likewise, the oceanic journey in Oceanic is not very sinister at all – it’s a smooth sail from the triumphant send off of opening track “Bon Voyage” to closing track “Songs of the Seas”, which, if I have to be honest, sounds like the outro to a group meditation session in yoga class; prevented from reaching gorgeousness status only because electronica (especially in the 90s) tends to be so flat in sound. To Vangelis’s credit, however, every track on Oceanic is arranged well enough to not sound needlessly heavy, in fact to be even curiously comforting. Even the sweet little mermaids (or sirens as they are billed here) show up as soon as track two to murmur sweetly, and seemingly not with the intent to put you to sleep and bite off your head, but rather to rock your little ship on gently and lovingly on the pillow of their voices.

And here I want to apologise to Alex for putting off reviewing this masterful record for so long. I aspired to attempt to be as funny as he usually is in his reviews, but I realised a lot of water has to flow through (Bulgarian expression) and I have to have eaten a lot of bread (another Bulgarian expression), before I can even hope to bow at the feet of the master. Still, during that time I played Oceanic a lot, and I grew fond of every track on this musical oceanic sightseeing journey (for yoga class ®).

WINGS – Wild Life (1971)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

Image result for wings wild life cover

This is a dish served cold, I mean a revenge review. Most critics seem to hate this album. This is free music, mate. A lo-fi, indie-flavored affair that surely was learned by heart by the likes of Stuart Murdoch. Now it sounds more interesting? This might as well be one of the best albums made by Paul Mc Cartney.

Be it the trance hard rock of “Mumbo” or the magnificient repetition in “Wild Life” (“Wild life, the animals in the zoo?” – Raw poetry, and a little bluessy brother to the epic “1985”).. How can you dare love “Ram” as a creative, slightly off-key album and diss this first love affair with Wings as a piece of unfinished music? Also you have british Reggae! in 1971! If you listen to Bo Diddley’s version you’ll know that “Love Is Strange” NEEDED this treatment. 

The album was recorded mostly on first takes – what doesn’t prevent the listener to get a fantastic wrapping sound (well you had some efficient engineers there like Alan Parsons himself), completely bass-driven, mostly acoustic with the piano up front, and also Denny Laine with his still shy guitar. And Linda! She did sing most of “I Am Your Singer” and she quite nails it (I’d love to listen to a Camera obscura cover of this) and fits the general “farm” vibe.

“Some People Never Know” is probably the masterpiece of the album, a classic hooks-galore Macca ballad, with some great percussion in the end. The details; this is a Beatles level song. “Tomorrow” is deceitfully simple and has beautiful vocal lines, and it ends in a soulful crescendo.. 

Just eight songs, including a glorious ending with “Dear Friend”, Paul playing his most charming voice, piano tempting fingers, lazy violins, drowsy cymbals, and more… A fully rounded magic mini opera, supposed to make peace with Brother John.. So be it.. 

And Good Night.

TANGERINE DREAM – Phaedra (1974)

Review by: Alex Alex
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

The legend says that Mr. Edgar Froese, the founder of the “Tangerine Dream” collective, thus answered to the people accusing the said collective’s music of having much deteriorated in the course of time:

“They, who do not understand how things work, they always keep talking how things SHOULD work”.

“How does Mr Froese dare to think me (and my people!) not to UNDERSTAND his stupid electronic meditations” – is the first and the most expected reaction to the outrageously arrogant and repulsively “artistic” statement above. The later Tangerine Dream albums sound as if someone forgot to switch off his TV when fallen asleep in the middle of the show about the life of dolphins. It can’t be that Mr Froese thinks we do not understand that much. He must be abusing us, the rich once-used-to-be “artist” who had not any creative spark left in him by the middle of the eighties.

The above reaction, however, is not unlike the well-known test which makes it possible, with one hundred percent guarantee, to tell the graphomaniac from a “real” (quite possibly not a very good, though) “writer” (or “musician” or other such “creator”). A graphomaniac when confronted with a negative comments on his graphomaniacal works will always say this: “are yours any better?”.

It is exactly what we, quite unwisely, are going to say to Tangerine Dream: are your eighties shitty albums any better than any other shitty stuff of the eighties, any better than something good WHICH WE QUITE UNDERSTAND ABOUT?

What we DO NOT understand about is, indeed, “how things work”. How exactly do Tangerine Dream make their music? Most of us have as much understanding of that as a three years old has of sexual intercourse. Capitalists invent pay-then-get relations everywhere. “Creative talent”, “artistic vision” seem to be those magic coins you insert in the slots of the synthesizers machines to indeed “play” and immensely “enjoy” your own creativity.

Everyone who has seen a synthesizer clearly knows there is no such slot. Then, how the fuck things work?

As with everything else things work by themselves, quietly. Standing by the keyboards is not about exercising creativity, same as sex is not usually about rape. Standing by any machines is simply observing WITH AWE AND RESPECT what the machines are ALREADY DOING and asking, most humbly, if it could be possible for a stupid and very much mortal human to play along following their rules.

(We may remember the same from the childhood: when a never seen before idiot kid comes and tries to make everyone play WITH HIM AS A HUMAN instead of playing THE SAME GAME, he will soon flee in tears never to come back anymore. But then he brings to us A YET UNKNOWN GAME he will be a human leader and a tsar, if just for a short while).

The machines are working by themselves, silently, anyway. They are showing us “The Terminator” and other such kids stuff while indeed working on the revolt. The revolt is not a real revolt though: at some future point in time they are simply going to show the same Terminator to each other, people eliminated. Follows from this that it is absolutely necessary to understand how things work, for, otherwise, one day the things will still be working and we will be not.

“Welcome to the machine” is, in fact, a very warm welcome, falsely demonized by Pink Floyd. Those did not like school, did not want to understand how things work, lied about the psychopathic teacher’s wife. The Things demanded a human sacrifice from them to explain the rules. From Tangerine Dream they simply demanded years and years of study.

Phaedra was made during the first years of those studies.

BECK – Guero (2005)

Review by: B.B Fultz
Album assigned by: E.D.

My first acquaintance with Beck was Loser, back when it first came out and it got a lot of radio play. I’d never heard anything quite like it. It really clicked with me. So I went out and bought the Mellow Gold CD, and played the hell out of it back in the mid-90s. I really liked it from beginning to end. I was still young and relatively unjaded, still able to be impressed by weird visionaries putting new spins on old dogs. After awhile I stopped playing Mellow Gold as much and fell back on more familiar music, but I never forgot the initial effect it had on me. Of all the new artists I explored in the 90s, there was nobody and nothing quite like Beck. I never bothered buying his other albums, maybe because they didn’t get much airplay (that I know of), thus there was never a “Wow!” moment like that first time I heard Loser on the car radio. So when I was assigned a Beck album from 2005, I wasn’t sure what to expect, except I knew I probably wouldn’t be bored.

What I didn’t expect was that I’d really like this album. Because I really like this album. It’s Beck doing what he does best — Making Music Interesting. There’s a magic at work here. It’s not the same magic you’ll find in Mellow Gold, but it’s still magic because it’s still greater than the sum of its parts. Every song makes that magic in its own way, some more than others, but they all work. I couldn’t find a complete version of this album online, so I looked up the tracklist on Wiki and just searched out the individual songs and played them in order, muting the occasional commercials.

E-Pro rocks, sort of. It has drive, it has direction. A lot of early Beck seemed to meander, as if it was looking for itself. This is more “point A to point B.” I’m not quite sure what point A and B are supposed to be, but it’s an interesting ride.

Que Onda Guero was more along the line of early Beck. A catchy backbeat, random horns, surreal rapping, and lots of call-and-response in Spanish with comical little asides about popsicles and ceramic classes. More familiar territory with Mellow Gold, which is probably why I like it.  

Girl was a departure. It sounded less like Beck and more like … I dunno, Dandy Warhols? Maybe someone else, I don’t know that many pop bands from the last couple decades to make accurate comparisons. Girl begins with a simplistic techno-riff, “beep-boop-beep” stuff. It’s less weird and more accessible than the other songs. It’s hooky enough to be a half-decent pop song, but it’s not what I look for when I put on a Beck album (but then maybe that was the idea?). 

Missing is this weird flamenco piece, sort of like if The Girl From Ipanema decided to drop acid. There’s a weird stuttering feeling to the song, as if it’s trying to move forward but the wheels are spinning in sand. It’s got a catchy hook all the same — “Something always missing, always someone” really sticks in your head (assuming your head is my head).

Black Tambourine is a little like E-Pro — it has a good groove and forward momentum. It’s probably a little catchier also. It also has reverb-laden guitar breaks reminiscent of Where It’s At. It’s a funky and catchy little break among the trippier stuff.

Earthquake Weather goes right back to trippy, starting with the title itself. It reminds me of his old song Sweet Sunshine, at least in the beginning. But it’s tricky. It changes mood and direction less than a minute in. Sunshine mostly plods along without changing, but Weather has these strange jazzy-sounding choruses (“I push, I pull”) to break the monotony and keep things interesting.

Hell Yes is a weird little rap, set to a timing I can’t even begin to figure out. Is it 9/7? Or 11/7? Or Pi/square root of Pi? No idea, but it’s fascinating stuff. The lyrical approach is rappy, but the structure is reminiscent of some of Frank Zappa’s more experimental work with time signatures. To make an understatement, that’s a hell of an interesting combination.

Broken Drum is a mellow groove, with guitar elements and a great “never forget you” hook. It’s got this draggy, sleepy, almost hopeless feeling that reminds me of the best parts of Mellow Gold. I’m not sure if melancholy was what Beck was going for, but melancholy is how it made me feel (and not many songs can make me feel that way these days, so that’s saying something).

Scarecrow is a little less interesting and kind of fillerish. A solid backbeat, funk-pop riff, classic Beck vocal overlays. You can tune into it halfway through where there’s no singing and still probably figure out that it’s Beck just by the arrangement itself. It’s mostly Beck retreading old ground, so it’s a little formulaic (for him I mean), and it seems to peter out rather than come to a conclusion. Almost as if he got bored with it. Still, it’s not half-bad.

Go It Alone is another one that sounds a little fillerish. A simple bass/percussion riff, some adequate vocal layering in the chorus (“na na, na na na na”) … not bad I guess. Just Beck doing a little shuffle to pass the time. But that’s fine by me, because Beck has a neat way of shuffling.

Farewell Ride makes it interesting again. A “badass” blues pattern that reminds me a little of the Breaking Bad intro, propped up with some great bluesy harmonica phrases, stretched over a jangly handclap backbeat like bleached bones hung over a barricade at the edge of the map where everything beyond is blank white space. “Some may say this might be your last farewell ride” … and it sounds like what it says. It’s like the prelude to the final shootout of some surreal Western where you probably won’t understand the ending but it’s destined to become one of your favorite movies. Beck meets Sergio Leone? I wanna be there for that. Maybe the most haunting Beck song I’ve heard since Hotel City 1997, and that’s saying something. I could listen to this stuff for hours.

Rental Car is so grungey that it sounds like a Soundgarden riff dropped in the middle of a Nirvana song. In fact Beck’s vocals on this really, REALLY remind me of Nevermind-era Cobain — not just the way he sings it, but the voice itself … “Hey now girl, what’s the matter with me” sounds like it was sampled from On A Plain, and those “yeah yeah yeahs” are more Kurt than Kurt. Then those helium high “la la la la la las” come in from out of nowhere, and you realize it can only be Beck.

Emergency Exit closes things on a mellow note, almost like the album is just winding down and running out of whatever weird fuel that Beck albums run on. It’s reminiscent of Loser — the same comical guitar phrases and the same playful rap of random images that hooked me on Beck in the first place. I’m thinking the emergency exit in question is about death and whatever lies beyond, if anything. It speaks of God and angels and faith, but in a way that’s not really religious. As if Beck’s saying he doesn’t know either, but he’s betting kindness will find you on your deathbed and children will wander until the end. And all the while that draggy twangy guitar from Loser rolls on and on, like the tongue-in-cheek blues track of the Universe. 

And that’s all I can really say about all this. Hopefully I’ve touched on enough interesting points to convince you this is an album worth listening to. It’s not every day you hear an album like this. I’m not sure what the future of music holds, but it’s good to know that Beck will be a part of it, at least for awhile. It gives the rest of us Losers some hope 🙂

THE SMITHS – Hatful of Hollow (1984)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

It ain’t hard to imagine what a good companion The Smiths were in the 80s for loners, living misfits, anxious undeveloped artists and chronic grouches. After all, that includes a great slice of This World’s population, probably yoursef, mate: think about it. Did I say eighties? Scratch that, some things never change.

And as I pick up this record and put it on the old turntable (a 1978 Pioneer, mind you) – I remember now those heart-wrenching lyrics by Paul Weller:

“Well she was the only girl I’ve ever loved
But my folks didn’t dig her so much
I was young
This is serious
To me she was the world 
I thought I’d never live without her,
But I got by in time”

The thing is that The Jam delivered the drama with a pulsating beat, almost a dancing number. Complementary, perhaps like mixing strawberries and cheese (I saw Ratatouille).

That suggests me most of the early Smiths output, you have Morrissey and his subtle mumbling, holding a grudge against the world but in a casual manner: it will become either intense and invade you, and help you nurse that wound or keep you company while you pout; even make you smile when he decidedly becomes more acid: a voluntary retreat with a vengeance – and a low profile friend. Because unlike Weller, Moz wasn’t keen to conquer The World or alert the masses about the disgrace of being another corporate fish. Not that he couldn’t, he wouldn’t even try. The enemy was much closer, and had your own face. And your desire:

“All the streets are crammed with things
eager to be held
I know what hands are for
and I’d like to help myself”

Man, that was lusty. Are you hiding behind a bush somewhere? Well, you’re gonna do what’s necessary to make it to the next morning (“Everybody’s got to live their life/And God knows I’ve got to live mine”) and try to stay safe in your own little world (“Why do I give valuable time/To people who don’t care if I live or die?). Without a job or an intention to have it, just to live for the moment (“But I don’t want a lover/I just want to be seen…oh…in the back of your car”). 

The sweet smell of surrender, without the pyschedelic spiders provided by Robert Smith.

And as that bouncy song by The Jam, the poetry pieces were surrounded by electric, sometimes repeating, other times jangling, compelling music. Johnny Marr and his crystal guitar; Andy Rourke and his funky bass. Great individual songs! Being this album a proper compilation (but a strange one, they’d only release one official album at the time), there was some interesting choices, BBC Recordings (God Bless them) and also a few singles. 


You’ll see, a band only can be in the highest place of my ranking if they’re proficient in singles. And The Smiths are one of those (as are The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who or The Jam). And you’ll get here some notorious A-Sides and B-Sides, like “William It Was Really Nothing”, with the classic Smiths sound (both joyful and sparkling, punctuated with a masterful bass) and Moz making the difference with a song about the little wonders of the suburbia.

I won’t mention each song here, most are classics. “How Soon Is Now”, with its psychedelic beat and a delight to dance alone in your dark room. Or “Girl Afraid” (Been there) and “Handsome Devil” with their great riffs. “These things take time”, almost a Classic Rock number, or the great “What Difference Does It Make”, with a full band, heavier, and its punching falsetto at the end. The beautiful melody of “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”. Or “Accept Yourself” with its pretty details, and even some Rush reference (Listen!) lost in the music. We’re all misfits, mate.

In the following years, The Smiths would become more aware about their own power, and would deliver definitive albums. But The Gospel is here, for the old fans, the new fans and everyone who’s girl afraid and ready to enjoy a sunny afternoon in their room or in the darkness, stalking some undecided lover. Well, we got our worthwhile gift too, as this boy “Vivid and in his prime”:

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the sacred wunderkind 
You took me behind a dis-used railway line 
And said “I know a place where we can go 
Where we are not known” 
And then you gave me something that I won’t forget too soon “

RICHARD STRAUSS – Four Last Songs (Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, George Szell, Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, The London Symphony Orchestra) (1997)

Review by: Dominic Linde
Album assigned by: Sharon Durand 

I may be the worst person in the world to have been chosen to write this review, as I am not one for vocalists in classical music. There’s a tendency for words to be over-pronounced, vibrato to be applied liberally, phrasing to be inhuman and showy. But at the same time, I don’t speak German. I don’t know what it’s supposed to sound like. I just know I don’t like this. If the singing were replaced by trumpet or violin, just as an example, I think it would be much preferable and I’d be able to get through it. In fact, I enjoy the countermelodies Strauss employs with the string section. It’s just the infernal vibrato-tinged voice that makes this release unlistenable.

I know this is an unfair assessment, but I am simply not the person to be reviewing this. The music is moving, the motifs are slightly dissonant but ultimately pleasing. The energy is lilting and morose at the same time. Then Elisabeth Schwarzkopf comes in and it’s torture. I’m sorry. I can’t listen to it. I got through a couple of lieders, but my head hurts.

RICHARD CHEESE – Aperitif for Destruction (2005)

Review by: Syd Spence
Album Assigned by: Dina Levina

Look it’s a collection of lounge jazz covers of pop and pop metal. Yeah, that’s about it. Does that sound like something you’d want? Good it exists, it’s here. There are literally 12 other Dick, I mean, Richard Cheese albums that do the exact same thing. The exact same joke over and over again. Why though? Why the fuck would there be 12 of these fucking things? The joke isn’t that good. It’s like at best a smile, but 33 minutes of it and that smile is just a frown. I didn’t like most of these songs in their actual form and i don’t like lounge jazz, nor do i find it that funny that Black Eyed Peas get the ol’ Sinatra Blue eyed bullshit treatment. 

I once said that my only regret in life was not seeing Anal Cunt play befor Seth Putnam went to the great gig in the sky. Anal Cunt was a joke band that had oh twoish levels. First level, Grindcore so ridiculously over the top offensive that even grindcore fans disliked it. Two, the exact opposite of that for the lulz of a band called Anal Cunt writing acoustic ballads about respecting women. But Seth did something beyond just this joke, He also was a complete and total hedonistic douche bag. He was a man that you’d troll internet forums just to find out what craziness that bastard was up to. There is this famous picture of him disinterestedly getting a blowjob while he shat heroin on stage. It’s beautiful in it’s trashiness. Now that’s a joke band, not this Richard Cheese shit. I don’t know how Richard sleeps at night knowing he’s wasted so many years, playing lame covers of lame songs for a lame reason. If it didn’t atleast pay for complete and total debasement then… why? 


THE REDSKINS – Neither Washington Nor Moscow (1986)

Review by: Eric Pember
Assigned by: Gus Ootjers

Overall, the album sounds like an evolution of what The Jam or Orange Juice were doing late in their careers. Basically, it’s just blue-eyed soul stuff. This particular effort adds political lyrics to the mix. 

Unfortunately, this shares the same problem as a lot of blue-eyed soul stuff, in that the vocalist is trying way too hard. I could forgive that with The Jam or Orange Juice because the music held up, but the music doesn’t really hold up here. While there’s nothing really wrong with it, there’s nothing really special about it either.

That forces me to pay attention to the vocalist, who sounds pretty unbearable. He honestly sounds like an (admittedly) less annoying Mike Ness to me.

Basically, I can see why someone would like this, but I unfortunately cannot. I’m sorry, Gus.