Never Heard of 'Em


Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

Hey, do you ever miss the days when I hadn't gone to music first grade yet, and I was still really confused and angry all the time about these albums? I used to hear 30 seconds of a punk song and feel like my ears were going to throw up. But recently, I've been liking a lot of the stuff I'm listening to, and I haven't been embarrassing myself so much. Nico, I know, is hella important. It would be embarrassing not to "get it."

BUT UGGGGHHHH. Dave Segal gave me this album, and I'm 99 percent sure he's just pranking me. (Yeah, dude, I'm on to you.) Look, I get it. Nico's so cool! Nico hung out with Andy Motherfuckin' Warhol. Nico sang with the Velvet Underground. Nico had the most eyelashes you've ever seen. Nico and her shiny hair and German cheekbones made all the boys cry.

But oh, BARF. This is just all bells and talk-singing and waggling noises and some lady who sounds like she lives in a tree. Each track goes like this: A certain instrument starts—an organ thing, or maybe an accordion or a violin—and then it just blahs around lumpily, and then Nico shows up with her strange accent to pronounce some bullshit as if she's getting really into Wicca. "Truuuuuue heeeearts of duuuuunes." What?

Here's a trick: Try playing "Ari's Song," the one with that little twizzling whistle in the background, for a dog. They will not like it! Nico: Music to Bother Your Dog With.

I played Nico for my dad, a dude for whom this is age-appropriate music, songs he heard the first time around. His response? "People did a lot of weird stuff in the '70s just to seem weird." Then he immediately tried to turn off the stereo system.

And what do you get if you make it all the way through to the last track, "Evening of Light"? PUNISHED, THAT'S WHAT. "Midnight winds are landing at the end of tiiii-iiiime." In the background, what sounds like a hammer dulcimer, the most Birkenstocks-at-Folklife of instruments. Then the music grows and grows, and then it just blurbles strangely forever. By the end of the track, it's just screeching and cymbals and chanting.

I went over to Segal's desk and yelled at him for a while, and then I called Nico a "cheekbone witch," which made him upset, and so then I said I'd give him the end of my column to explain why she's so great anyway. Here you go, Segal:

"This is no prank, Anna: This is rehearsal for end times. The Marble Index is the most harrowing album ever. It took supermodel/actress Nico—with arrangements by fellow Velvet Underground exile John Cale—going against type to fuse folk with chamber music and set them on a tundra of mournful harmonium, wretchedly beautiful viola, and cursed glockenspiel. The crushing existential gravity and grotesque beauty here would, I'd like to imagine, make Jean-Paul Sartre blubber like a baby. Feat! (Also, I'd like a word with your dad.)"

I give this a "I'm an idiot, I know" out of 10. recommended

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Comments (5) RSS

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You're not an idiot. I am a huge Velvet Underground fan and consider The Velvet Underground & Nico one of the best and most important albums ever recorded. I think Nico's albums Chelsea Girl and Desertshore are beautiful and tremendous, and though I think less of her albums Drama of Exile and Camera Obscura, they are not without their charm and are pretty great in their own right. So I love Nico, and I think she's great and wonderful and beautiful and important. And I hate this album with a passion.
Posted by in_effigy on January 22, 2014 at 9:49 AM · Report this
Nico was a Heroin addict and an inveterate racist who said "I hate black people" before nearly carving out the eye of a mixed race female singer at Max's Kansas City.
Posted by neo-realist on January 22, 2014 at 3:32 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 3
Her version of The Door's The End on Kevin Ayer's June 1, 1974 with Eno providing backup synth is pretty durn good.

But The Marble Index? You're on target. And Cale is overrated as well.

Stick with Lou for your post-Velvets music.
Posted by Max Solomon on January 22, 2014 at 3:54 PM · Report this
You're not an idiot. My parents knew Nico in the 60's when she just started modeling and before she started hanging with Warhol and that crowd. She invited them to see her sing in a club where she sang "Speak Low" completely out of key. Couldn't carry a tune in a bucket that night.
Posted by MCinSeattle on January 23, 2014 at 5:53 PM · Report this
Not an idiot. I am sort-of interested in Nico and enjoy some of the material (depending on what you mean by 'enjoy' I guess..) but in my life I have bought, tried, and then given away to charity shops, two copies of this record. No third chance.
Posted by thelistener on March 28, 2014 at 3:21 AM · Report this

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