Klaus Nomi (1981)
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Keys of Life B
This is the only song credited exclusively to Klaus Nomi, and it's not exactly a triumph of composing. It's a creepy song, though, and introduced this weird guy to some degree of success. There's a fade-in with Nomi's vocals singing the title over and over. And then, Nomi's lead vocals come in singing in a robotic style ... something about outer space. His voice is obviously the biggest interest here, and it definitely has an appealing, unusual tone even though he might not be showing off his operatic chops here. All the while, there's a very sparse drum machine playing and a number of strange atmosphere and random spaceship sound effects going off. Weird!
Lightnin' Strikes A+
This is possibly his most famous song---a cover of Lou Christie's 1966 hit, and it's known for both its novelty value and serious musical quality. The rhythm is bouncy, which fits it nicely within the new wave movement. The verses features Nomi rhythmically play-acting to some '50s-ish undertones. The female backup singers and the Muppet-sounding voice growling the word “stop” were both nice touches. But most memorable part of the song doesn't occur until he starts singing the chorus with his countertenor operatic voice; it's like the apocalypse hit! Awesome. Needless to say, this is miles and miles better than the original. (Oddly enough, I find Lou Christie's voice more creepy than Nomi's...)
The Twist A
I could accuse this one of being too weird for weird's sake, but it's a genuinely interesting interpretation of the Chubby Checker song. This is the first time, I think, I've ever heard a New Wave reinterpretation of a '50s song that actually has been slowed down. And I think this is the first time I've ever heard an extra-terrestrial doing the twist... Nomi gives a spooky vocal performance using his operatic voice, and he likes playing with the volume! They bring in an array of weird sound effects (so many that it's hard to keep track of them) to keep it as weird as possible. And the image this puts in my mind is probably exactly what these guys were shooting for ... space aliens slowly boogieing at some weird, slightly sadistic looking party. Yes, this is nuts.
Nomi Song A
I suppose this was being groomed as his signature tune. It's an original (written by one of his cronies). It starts out like an operatic aria and then some jerky new wave rhythms come in. The melody is pretty catchy and some of the instrumental ideas are clever. I like that lone synthesizer loop we hear as the song opens and the bass-line during the new wave bit. Very nice!
You Don't Own Me B+
According to Wikipedia, Rush Limbaugh plays this song during the gay news segment of his show probably because of Nomi's thick German accent and he sings “Don't tell me I can't play with other boys.” As long as you don't mind mind these sort of flamboyant songs, this can be a remarkably enjoyable experience for you! The original melody was catchy (I'm sure you've heard it before) and the instrumentation is crisp and sparkly. Nomi's performance was probably not flamboyantly gay on purpose... he's just doing some playful acting with his operatic voice. (OK, the end of the song sounds ridiculously gay... holy moly...) This is a real blast, though!
The Cold Song A
Here is a fairly straight-played operatic song based on a progression from 17th Century composer Henry Purcell with synthesizers. The instrumentation is an array of nicely chosen synthesizers, but I can assume that they're played the same way that the Baroque instruments would've done them. Anyway, this is positively haunting and mesmerizing... Nomi delivers his operatic lines with grace! That's probably why it still sounds weird.
Wasting My Time B
This was co-written by Nomi. It's not bad, but it's probably one of the album's weaker numbers. It's a moderately paced new wave song with the typical instrumentation. The hook is fine, but it's not super-strong, and it does seem to repeat itself an awful lot! By this time, the novelty of his voice had worn out also, and he doesn't do anything else interesting with it.
Total Eclipse A+
That suddenly fades into this brilliant little pop song! It was written by the same guy that wrote “The Nomi Song,” and it's catchy as hell! Nomi repeats the apocalyptic sound that he delivered in “Lightnin' Strikes” except this time he's singing “Tooootal Eclipse.” So who knows? The world might end with a total eclipse? The instrumentation is just about as good as New Wave gets... The disco undertones keeps it snappy, and those guitars couldn't be bouncier. This is total blast.
Nomi Chant B-
This track consists just of some synthesizer waves... Nomi doesn't sing on it at all. This was probably a leftover from his stage show... he probably emerged from a spaceship or an inter-dimensional rift while this music played. They didn't really have to put it on the album, but whatever... It was kinda short and they needed to fill up some space! ... It's not bad as far as these things go. I could take it or leave it.
Sampson and Delilah (Aria) B+
Almost as an afterthought, they include this snippet from an opera written by romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It's straight sounding opera, which sounds great, although it probably doesn't give you the desired effect unless you were watching it in person. The shock value must've been something else! This is wonderfully performed, of course. What a pretty voice! There's some space ship noises at the end... Farewell, thy weird alien!
Simple Man (1982)
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From Beyond B+
Similar to the final song from Klaus Nomi in that it's mostly just a wave of synthesizer notes. But this time, Nomi's singing some pretty notes in a Gregorian chant style (a snippet by early 17th century composer John Dowland), which makes it seem much richer. A few sound effects from gongs and such and some wind sounds places this in the latter half of David Bowie's and Brian Eno's Heroes. This is hardly a groundbreaking work, but it's rather haunting!
After the Fall A+
A classic! Here's a hugely enjoyable pop-rock number in a similar vein to “Total Eclipse” (a song that's referenced in these lyrics) and in fact written by the same person. It not only features a remarkably catchy melody, but those gorgeous countertenor vocals from Nomi again giving me visions of the apocalypse. This is even seemingly better developed than most of the songs from the previous album... This is nearly five minutes long, which seemed appropriate, and they even found reason for a sloppy guitar solo. Very nice.
Just One Look B-
Not bad... this is a cutesy cover of an old pop-rock tune. The groove consists of some brief beeps, which probably wasn't the best thing they could have done. This doesn't cover any new ground for Nomi, but it still has a fun novelty quality to it. (Around the 2:10 mark, I really have no idea what's going on!) They probably could have thought of something different... but I guess this guy didn't have all the time in the world, and he might have been aware of it by then.
Falling in Love Again B+
Much better... This is a drugged up disco song with a simple, catchy groove that sounds a tad twisted. A few weird ideas for sound effects keep this an utterly quirky effort... It also almost turns into a cowboy piano bit in the middle of it, which was an interesting touch. It's a silly novelty song!
I guess you can't accuse this album of being samey! Although you wonder why Nomi would even consider singing a song like this. It's a robotic synth-pop song, and Nomi sings half of it in a voice synthesizer. This is extremely repetitive, as this genre tends to be, and it's not especially hooky. This sort of thing is a dime-a-dozen, which doesn't belong on such a unique performer's album!
Rubberband Lazer B+
Pretty good... This is a funny attempt to bring country-western to the electronic age. They're playing around with some of the melodic cliches of the genre including an electronic instrument sounding like a galloping horse, country bumpkin violins and a hoe-down style chorus. The lyrics are sci-fi, but they use country-western-esque phrases like “living on the space range all the live long day” and “ride side by side when worlds collide.” (I think that's what he's saying---I can't find the lyrics anywhere.) Plus, there are Star Wars laser sound effects going off all over the place! This is an enjoyable novelty song!
Wayward Sisters A-
Following up on “The Cold Song” from the debut, this is another cover from 17th Century composer Henry Purcell. I do see what fans of Nomi's operatic side are coming from... this stuff definitely seems more serious than all these strictly novelty songs that he'd been doing lately. It also proves how fine a singer he was... Just like “The Cold Song,” they use dark synthesizers for the accompaniment, and Nomi's singing as if it was the last day on earth.
Ding Dong A-
As a matter of fact, I was aware of this song before I know who Klaus Nomi was. For a brief time, when I was in the 8th grade, I used to listen to Dr. Demento midnight on Sunday. And they loved playing this song! ... This is certainly a silly rendition of the ditty from The Wizard of Oz fully equipped with silly munchkin sound effects. Nomi's vocal performance is especially goofy... you could tell that he wanted to have fun with it. The instrumentation is cutesy sort of like “Just One Look” except more involved and polished.
Three Wishes B
This is a silly fast-paced song with a rather uninteresting melody and chord progression. Although, give it credit for still sounding weird... Nomi's vocal performance keeps things entertaining, and so do those crazy violin and electric guitar synthesizers going off everywhere sounding every bit as deranged as Nomi does.
Simple Man A
This is extremely catchy, and it's another contribution from the guy who wrote “Total Eclipse” and “After the Fall.” It also gives us a great combination of his new wave pop side and operatic tendencies. The verses is a catchy synth-pop song, but the chorus is more of a bombastic, operatic aria. It's a very catchy song, and one of Nomi's most memorable. (I love the irony in the lyrics! That was a great title for the whole album, too!)
Yet another Henry Purcell cover... This is very good though nowhere near as compelling as “The Cold Song” was. Again, this is a great showcase for his operatic skills. As the title suggests, it's very dark sounding! ... It's pretty sad considering how close he was to his own death at this point.
It's the same sort of thing we heard in the album opener, except it's just Nomi's voice singing what sounds like a Gregorian chant (by English composer John Dowland). I do suppose some purists love hearing what he sounds like a cappella! Well, here you go! (Granted, there's a lot of reverb.)
In Concert (1986)
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Keys of Life B
I suppose before the grand entrance of Klaus Nomi at one of his shows, the audience were treated to a recording of some operatic classical music! I suppose that makes perfect sense considering who we're dealing with... I mean, if there's anyone who loves drama, it'll be Klaus Nomi. The classical bit lasts only a minute and a half, and after that we finally get that familiar, slowly paced ditty about aliens who save humanity. Since this is live and I can't imagine Nomi had a huge budget, you can expect that the sound effects that you remember from the studio cuts would be quite raw. For example, they seem to have trouble containing those huge laser-blasts, since the sounds seem to be entirely flooding out that recording equipment. Anyway, this creepy and slow-paced song is still a lot of goofy fun. Nomi needed it to have his entrance, and his choppy vocal performance makes this seem quite extra-terrestrial.
Falling In Love Again B
I wonder why he's doing this song in concert? (I only ask such a question, because it was never one of those songs that stuck out at me in his albums.) It's a fairly ordinary disco-dance song with a drugged up synth-bass rhythm. Nomi, of course, hams it up with his fey, counter-tenor German accent through this. (I mean, hear how he yelps throughout this!) The recording quality is so-so. Nomi's voice is a bit buried under that disco rhythm. ...Oh well, we can't complain too much since I suppose we're lucky to have a live recording of this guy as it is!
Lightning Strikes A
Oh man... the recording quality is so marginal that the rain and thunder sound effects at the beginning of this sounds like someone's rolling a bunch of Skittles on a wooden floor. ...It took me awhile to figure out it was supposed to be rain. Anyway, this was by and large my favorite moment of Nomi's two-album discography, and … I have to say! I'm a little bit sad that he doesn't appear to have even half the energy he did on the studio cut. ...Anyway, he could still conjure that beautiful counter-tenor part in the chorus, which is still amazingly captivating.
Nomi Song B+
If Klaus Nomi were still alive today, he'd still be singing this song. Because—as the song title says—it's his song. Just like the studio cut, it starts out as a pretty operatic ballad before a new-romantic beat comes jerking along. Nomi does appear to have recovered from the previous song and even starts to get playful by its mid-section. (This is also probably an easier song to sing.) The recording quality is extremely rough this time... That bass groove and drums just overpower everything. I also don't hear that evolving keyboard texture well enough.
The Twist B+
This doesn't have the wicked charm of the studio cut... That's mostly because Nomi talks the lyrics instead of that talk-singing that he did before. Although, this live cut still comes off as remarkably menacing. I mean, hearing Nomi's fey voice with a thick German accent talk like this is the stuff of nightmares. The other band members come in with echoey sound effects, which sound like they're probably pretty cool, but that's another point where a more clear recording probably would have benefited things! ...But anyway, Nomi could do “The Twist” like you've never heard it before, and that's one of the reasons he was awesome.
Total Eclipse A
Did they have two saxophonists at this concert or something? I hear one guy going nuts over the sax, but I swear I also hear something else. Maybe that's the guitarist being clever, or something? Again, I sort of wish this recording quality was better so I could make it out! ...But at least the recording quality is nice enough for me to enjoy hearing all the energy emitting from it. I love hearing that over that steady disco beat, which is by and large one of the finest disco beats in Nomi's woefully short discography. About midway through, Nomi starts to sing that catchy, catchy, catchy melody that I remember loving so much. He sings the operatic chorus so loudly that it sounds like it was maxing out the recording device... ...There's also quite a lot of awful, squeaky feedback noise in the middle of this. In fact, I think that feedback noise was worse than I've ever heard in any Velvet Underground album I've reviewed. ...If you can believe that.
I Feel Love B+
I hear an orchestra warming up at the beginning of this... Whoah! (It's not a real orchestra, by the way.) So, according to some massive Klaus Nomi fans, this is the main reason anyone should want to own this album, because you won't hear this song on any of his studio albums. Anyway, like all great covers do, this sounds almost nothing like the original. Summer's disco beat is translated into a raw, mechanical and menacing beat while his art-school-drop-out cronies play zippy and distorted sound effects through it. I also think I hear a baby and people laughing through it... I'm guessing that wasn't the audience! Nomi's vocals are his signature, counter-tenor operatic voice, and he wails throughout it in that massively overblown and campy way that I'm sure we've all come to love. ...Anyway, I didn't like this much at first, but I suppose like much Klaus Nomi's studio songs, it took awhile to grow on me. ...This just makes me wish he didn't die, so he could have put this on his third album.
Samson and Delilah (Aria) A-
Oh man, with all those pips and pops I'm getting from the vinyl rip of this I'm listening to, this sounds like I've found an old opera album in my grandparents' basement, or something. Nomi doesn't quite hit all the notes like he should, but this is an awfully touching performance anyway... Well, he probably knew that it was going to be one of his last. And the song ends with a huge blast of a rocketship along with some beeping noises. I guess he's going away from us... Awwww...
Za Bakdaz: The Unfinished Opera (2008)
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High Wire B
Have you ever seen an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess and ever listened to the music in the background? It sounds like cinematic music that was programmed into a Casio keyboard. That's what this song reminds me of, particularly the horn synths that are ever-present in this song. If they were really going to do this, shouldn't they have used keyboard sounds that were more prevalent in the early '80s? One of the few times we ever hear Klaus Nomi's actual voice is at the beginning after some footsteps and radio static noises when he says “Now what?” What comes next is a cheesy new-wave groove, those bad horn synths, and a wobbly theremin-sounding instrument. As a composition, it's not the worst thing I've ever heard, but it also uses a very boring chord progression, which is especially obvious since this is an instrumental. To call this a cheese-fest wouldn't be an insult, since that was exactly what Nomi did, but only if the actual guy was involved!
Valentine's Day B-
I usually try not to let people irk me, but I ran across someone recently who kept on calling it “Valentime's Day,” and that irritated me almost as much as this album does. (Not quite, though!) ...I am the leader and only member of a very, very, very underground rock 'n' roll band that's so underground that only I really know about it. However, I've been known to pepper my songs with weird synthesized voices like this. But do I really expect professional people to undergo in such shenanigans? If they couldn't bring Klaus Nomi back from the dead to sing for real, couldn't they have just found another singer instead of creating entire songs out of those creepy voices? Maybe they could have—I don't know—had lyrics go with this? ...Now, I might not care so much about this if only the song were good. I suppose hearing that very simple chord progression being strummed by some real guitars and pianos sounds pretty nice. ...There's some really confusing play-acting in the middle that consists of “Thank you!” “Oh think nothing of it.” “Oh yes I know!” “Thank you very much!” “No! Thank YOU very much!” “That's quite alright!” I have no idea what I'm listening to.
This time, it sounds like they found some real notes that the real Klaus Nomi had sung. But they mask it so deeply beneath these tribal rhythms that I can only assume it was because the recording quality was very rough. (Mid-way through, there's more of that creepy sample stuff...) And speaking of rough recordings, this CD was compiled in the mid-'00s. Couldn't they have had better technology to record that Spanish guitar so that it doesn't sound so FLAT? Come on! It sounds like someone recorded that on an answering machine tape.
There's one point in this where the militaristic drums start to flare up, and we get a verrry faint Klaus Nomi (real voice) starting to sing something. But after that, the whole thing kind of fades down, and all we get is a sort of sound effects collage of noises fading in and fading out of the speaker. I don't want to come off sounding like a total jerk, but me and my secret band writes songs exactly like this all the time, and we do it better. Maybe I can write Klaus Nomi's second unfinished opera?
Cre Spoda D+
More of those horrible synthesized voices this time put to a sort of Adam-Ant-esque rhythm before getting into what might have been a pretty good dancey new wave song... If only Klaus Nomi actually recorded it! I can tell the composers really wanted this to be a pop song, so those horrible fake voices are louder here than usual, and we can very plainly hear the seams in those voice samples they took. I mean, this thing is faker than Joe Biden's hair.
As you might have been able to gather the previous song and this one is precisely where I start to really hate what I'm listening to. The previous songs were OK if they were done by budding, 20-year-old music composers going to school. But anyway, those songs were OK listens. ...This song, on the other hand, is the worst I've reviewed in quite awhile. At the beginning I hear a bunch of guitars making fast-paced ticking noises while a lawn mower revs its engine up and down. And then the evil ghost of Nomi pops up with more TERRIBLE vocal samples trying to sing over it. ...Maybe this music wouldn't have been so bad if it were... I dunno... More musical.
Ugh. Let's see, there's a locust-sounding synthesizer bending around in the background amidst a half-baked, puttery synthesizer pattern that someone apparently spent 15-seconds working out on a piano. Maybe these are the sounds of Hell? ...Holy crap, did Nomi make this album in Hell?
Za Bakdaz C
If Nomi were actually alive here on earth, this might have been another pretty good new wave song. I also hear Nomi's voice singing a bunch of “aaahs” and words in a different language. But it still sounds like the producers found a few samples of his voice and kept on replaying it. The atmosphere of this... from the previous song... still sounds like he's playing it in Hell. Especially in the middle when I hear these beastly gurgling noises. What is that all about?
This time, someone spent a few minutes playing a vaguely Celtic-like acoustic guitar pattern while more of those awful samples of Nomi's voice hovers over the top of it. This is just about the worst thing I ever heard. ...Well, apart from other things I already listened to in this album.
STOP IT!!!!!!! These samples they got are the worst. Those tremolo voices at the beginning of this playing somewhat dissonant chords sound like they're trying to find the audio frequency that would trigger my gag reflex. (And holy crap... I even hear that they used the exact same sample they used throughout “Za Bakdaz.” Talk about not having much to work with! Phil Spector, eat your heart out... in prison.)
Rubberband Lazer B-
Well, this is at least something. They had an early version of “Rubberband Lazer” and put some post-production work on it such that it doesn't sound real anymore. Like he's singing it off on an old distant realm. Also, I hear more of those fake horns from that episode of Xena: Warrior Princess playing marching band stuff. ...But I'll give them credit for creating some interesting textures here. It's far more cluttered than the version we all know and love from A Simple Man. For my money WAAAAYYY worse, but it still makes me want to yell YEEE-HAAHHHHH! after it's through playing, so I suppose it still has a positive effect on me.
Silent Night C
I really don't get it. They had an old copy of Nomi singing “Silent Night.” But the recording quality must have been so rough that it sounds very much thrust in the background while this really weird jerky new-wave rhythm plays cleanly in the foreground. Don't you think this would have sounded better if they just left off that rhythm? Man, one of the few halfway decent unreleased recordings of Nomi they had, and they had to clutter it up with that nonsense...
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