Smack Jack

Nina Hagen was the soundtrack of my entire 9th grade year. Her weirdness did a lot to transport me out of the petty misery of high school. It’s probably for the best that I didn’t have access to the visuals – it might have ruined me for real life even more than it did. Nina looks damn good as a man though, and her face shows the same flexible range as her voice. This kind of aesthetic excess belies Nina’s D.A.R.E.- approved message. “Smack ist Dreck” indeed, but clearly people don’t become like this by prudishly saying no to things. Apparently the song was written by Nina Hagen’s babydaddy, who was himself a heroin addict and eventually died of AIDS, so there’s an element of tragic irony at play. The real message impressionable little minds are likely to absorb is that being a wildly weird and interesting person requires the rejection of conventional mores of behavior aka doing dumb shit that might put you in the ground but at least you died interesting.

Future Is Now

Well, this sounds even less like a song on stage. Some of Nina Hagen’s songs are pretty straightforward in structure – verse, chorus, verse and all that. Nunsexmonkrock is like none other, and her best work because of it. It’s not so much recognizably music, but a transmission from another universe. Nina Hagen does things with her voice that are like the vocal equivalent of what Warner Bros cartoon characters did with their bodies. Things that should not be physically possible in the real realm. Nunsexmonkrock was all about Nina playing with her voice, with the music and lyrics following to suit. It’s chaotic experimentation, fascinating, unique. Singing Future Is Now live, there’s no pretense of conventional song structure. Just vocal exercise. And what vocals!