Do or Die Diary 1982
From her days as a drawing card in the Velvet Underground to her haunting solo works such as The Marble Index, Nico occupied a rather singular place in rock and roll. Grafted onto VU by Andy Warhol in an attempt to stir media interest, she sang on the bands first album, enthusing “Femme Fatale” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties” with a smoky mystery that seemed to both fit the songs while not fitting the band. She then began a 20 year solo career with Chelsea Girl, which was for the most part a Velvets album, featuring Lou Reed, John Cale, and Sterling Morrison, among others. Following that was her masterwork The Marble Index, a harrowing, dark collection of songs crafted by Nico and Cale. By the time she died in 1988, her life had become one mystery atop another. Was she a singer, or film star (She appeared in dozens of movies, including Fellini’s La Dolce Vita)? Or perhaps a high-priced model, or punk godmother?
However you see her, you cannot deny her strange allure — a dark beauty seemingly mired in torment, with song titles such as “Janitor of Lunacy” and “No One is There” giving a glimpse of the icon. Unfortunately, this reissue of a 1982 release won’t clear the air a bit. Sounding as if recorded on a Walkman, Nico and band plod through a mixture of original material and covers — all the Lou Reed stuff, Bowie’s “Heroes,” and “The End” by the Doors, delivered in a strange faux-disco sort of doom goth backing by a band that couldn’t have been familiar with her work. Nico sounds tired, but that sort of adds to the quality of her voice, which while not a pretty thing, was commanding. While perhaps interesting as a historical document, fans should instead invest in her early solo work and leave this bit of aural car-crash rubbernecking alone.
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