Because of her riotous videos, Nina Hagen has become a darling of today's dance-club demimonde. She has unquestionable visual flair, a taste for the dramatic and a compulsion to be outrageous.
This manifests itself in Hagen's unrelenting pursuit and unquestioning acceptance of anything odd or extreme. She confuses freedom with raw weirdness, supposing that if anything goes, then that anything must be novel, creative and expressive.
Her American debut LP, "Nunsexmonkrock," does not always bear that out. Many songs sound jumbled and contrivedly zany -- and predictable. Some tunes start promisingly with sturdy riffs and fresh instrumental coloration, then get smothered in layers of voices and overlapping special effects. Her lyrics are laughable mumbo- jumbo, a reflexive recitation of spacey cliches: TM; UFOs; spies; Jah; etc. It's Devo-lution come full circle -- Hagen actually believes in what Devo lampooned.
Still, there are some pleasurable moments here. Ex-Screamer Paul Roessler produces fat, expansive piano chords for "Taitschi- Parrot" and haunting but melodic synthesizer sounds for "Cosma Shiva." Hagen herself generates a powerful theatrical presence and her technical prowess as a vocalist is mind-boggling. She can go from a gargoyle's gurgle to heavy-metal wailing to an icy operatic soprano in the space of a few seconds.
If Hagen were willing or able to focus her talent and vision better, she could easily produce some astounding work.
ON RECORD, ON STAGE
THE ALBUM: Nunsexmonkrock (Columbia, ARC 38008).
THE CONCERT: Thursday at the 9:30 Club.