The Return of the Mother

With Nina Hagen, it’s sometimes necessary to suspend critical thinking, and it’s nearly always necessary to suspend expectations. Doing the first can be difficult, because the singer is so frequently full of shit. Ideologically, she’s basically the worst kind of New Age; full of appropriated spiritual bromides, half-understood cosmology, and misdirected tirades against “the Man”; the kind of science-denying, Krishna-will-make-it-better crackpot who makes drinking chamomile look bad. On the other hand, though, she’s a visionary musician, author of a bizarre aesthetic so far ahead of its time that she still hasn’t fully gotten her due. The things she does with her voice! Nina Hagen has a vocal range so broad it defies the usual definition of range. She has the voice of a cartoon character, and an image to match, except there’s nothing cute or approachable about her at all. She’s terrifying, though she claims that she’s full of nothing but cosmic love. She really occupies her own universe, and has to be appreciated on her own terms, because coming at her any other way just doesn’t work.

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