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.