Monday, September 17, 2012

Klaus Nomi (1982)

Meet Klaus Nomi, an eccentric, flamboyant German opera singer who got his big break touring with David Bowie and decided to put out a record of New Wave music. Not weird enough? I should mention that he was a countertenor, meaning that he could sing at an extremely high pitch, and that the highlights of the album are bizarre covers of sixties girl-group pop songs.

This is one of those records that makes everyone who hears it scratch their head in confusion and when played for friends will inevitably elicit the response "what is this?" It's not an easy question to answer. As you can see from the image above, Nomi is not helping the stereotype that Germans are weird with his outlandish costumes and makeup job that looks like it came straight out of an F. W. Murnau film.

The instrumentation baking up Nomi's heavily accented voice is rather thin, consisting of angular guitars, some eighties synths, a little piano and the occasional smattering of backing vocals to evoke the sixties atmosphere of some of the covers. These include "Lightning Strikes," "You Don't Own Me" and "The Twist" all sung with the over the top melodrama only a campy opera singer can pull off (although whether he does, in fact, pull it off is purely a matter of opinion.

There are also some original compositions, which are decent and just as zany, but lack some of the surreal fun of lines like "You don't own me, don't say I can't play with other boys!" The album ends bizarrely with an excerpt of a legitimate operatic aria, which is fine but totally out of place.

Klaus Nomi went on to record one more studio album (featuring a cover of "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!" How great is that?) and a live record before sadly dying of AIDS in 1983. His debut is a fun listen for fans of novelty albums and general musical oddities.

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