maandag 17 augustus 2015

Nina Hagen Band. Nina Hagen Band

Unbeschreiblich grossartig, that is the term I'd like to use before writing anything else on the first album of Nina Hagen Band. With time Nina Hagen may have beccome "vetter und vetter und vetter von dien Scheisschocolat", Nina Hagen Band has certainly become better and better and better. To my huge surprise it was not one of the albums I could vote for in the album list of the past 60 years on the website And then I played Nina Hagen Band during the holiday in the car and desperately trying not to speed and thought: time for a review.

The fame of Ms Hagen and her band came just before the music. I had just turned 18. Punk was something that slowly became a music form that became known to the average music lover in NL late in 1977 and the winter of 1978, while in the U.K. it was all but over. Nina Hagen was put under the punk moniker, but everyone listening to the well-crafted songs and the level of playing of her band has to admit that this band had nothing to do with punk as an expression of anger and social injustice. In looks perhaps and who knows attitude, but musically this is a great rock record.

Nina Hagen was sort of extremely strange of course. Whatever part she played as a singer there is no equivalent. Her voice is all over the place and some opera comes totally natural for her. This mix of theatrical singing in contrast with the hard rocking band together with her sneers in the punk fashion of London 1977 make for something extremely attractive to listen to. Even after 37 years I can still be surprised how high her voice soars over the soft melody of Naturträne. After which she gives it a full  punk treatment just before the guitar solo. Again it it the combi of great music with Nina's antics what make this particular song so great. The overdubs push her on to heights that seem impossible to reach and ending in ridiculousness chicken sounds. Why not?

The album kicks of with the only cover. 'T.V.-Glotzer' is also know as 'White Punks on Dope' by the Tubes. It's your debut and why not start it with a T.V. announcement? In another universe she could have made a career there, so convincing is her sounding neutral voice. Everything this record is not.

What I remember after buying the album not long after the release of the single 'Unbeschreiblich Weiblich' is the incredibly good sound. I still think this album has an uncanny sound. Even more so when I take into consideration that this is a debut. The record company has not saved on this production. Believe in success must have been soaring. (Too bad that not much else really came from this combination.) The explosion after the introduction is direct and in your face. Guitars, synthesizer and a walloping rhythm section. An intro of 40 seconds before Nina Hagen comes to the stage, relentless without mercy nor hesitation. The mix is such that it is clear who has centre stage on this record. Right up front just left from the middle. 'T.V.-Glotzer' is built up in such a great way, all in the band get a moment of glory somewhere, that it seems nearly impossible to do better. The strength of Nina Hagen Band is that it does get better in its own songs.

The band is three men who played in the Berlin band Lokomotive Kreuzberg before teaming up with Nina Hagen and keyboard player Reinhold Heil. What is special also is that all four, Berhard Potschka (guitars), Manfred Praeker (bass) and Herwig Mitteregger (drums) contribute to the songwriting with Hagen. There are two Hagen originals and 'Pank' was written by her with the late Ari Up of The Slits. It is not often that the drummer and bass player contribute significantly to the songwriting efforts.

Perhaps it is because of that that this album goes from hard rocking songs, to atmospheric beauties, reggae or punk to zombie ditties. Every single form chosen works and excels in inventive playing and multi layered music. The band gets away with it all and surprises with every turn of this record. Whether is the reggae and steaming showers of 'Heiss', the balladry of 'Der Spinner' (couldn't they really come up with a decent ending?), the rock of 'Superboy' and the mystery of 'Auf 'm Friedhof', Nina Hagen Band gives them an exquisite rendition that just drills into the brain for now and forever.

Through all  the years I have kept playing this album, perhaps one of the only ones from my (late) teenage years. Being on holiday in Berlin at the turn of 2010, I started quoting Nina Hagen once in front of Bahnhof Zoo (and yes I saw the entrance to the Damen Klo). Once home the record got more plays and got even more popular then ever before. Perhaps I only then started to appreciate all the hidden layers more that Nina Hagen band has within it. All these little sounds, the intricate drumming and the feats of Ms. Hagen herself.

In short, Nina Hagen Band seems to have crept up high in my favourite records of all time. There are not so many records that I really kept loyal to over all these years. Yes, 'Abbey Road' is my favourite The Beatles album, but when did I play it for the last time? Right, Nina still spins away as LP, cd or MP3 in a regular way. Rock on, Nina!


You can listen to 'Unbeschreiblich Weiblich' here:

or buy on

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