Nico - The End... | Album Review | By Volume

What is this life, why do we strive? Fast on a wheel, too fast to feel. One day, my love, this life will slow. Sam Brookes - One Day


The End...

Nico’s siren song to her bohemian generation has lost no luster at nearly forty years old.

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Author: on October 17, 2012
October 1, 2012

To call Nico influential seems like a huge misstatement. And not in the sense that the German wonder-woman is undeserving of the accolade, but more so the mediocre coinage flubs off ones tongue as though your mouth were just shot-up with too much novocain. She was a surprisingly driving influence for many of her contemporaries (see: Warhol, Cale, Fellini, Morrison and Dylan to name a few) that adopted her generations bohemian lifestyle, rarely settling down in a single place for too long and vehemently immersing herself in drug culture while continuously pursuing art in a multitude of forms. She was a model, an actress but what Christa Päffgen will be reminisced on endearingly for years to come is her music. Specifically her collaboration with John Cale, Lou Reed and company in The Velvet Underground & Nico (1969) but what is most exciting about her is just how much depth there is to be found in her solo work, especially her records beyond the exceptional debut Chelsea Girl (1967).

The End… was Nico’s first album on Island Records and for all intents and purposes was her final record created within the veil of her 60s and 70s peak. While a critical success at its release in 1974, the record tanked on the pop charts, prompting Island to drop Päffgen amidst various ideological differences and effectively ending her trio of Harmonium based, synthesizer heavy, gothic-pop records. Keep in mind that while Chelsea Girl was a success in many respects and an immensely influential album for 60s pop, it brought Nico to tears upon its release as the record’s chamber-pop trappings were far-and-away the antithesis of Päffgen’s initial intentions for the record. “I still cannot listen to it, because everything I wanted for that record, they took it away,” she states in the liner-notes for the 2002 reissue of The Velvet Underground’s eponymous debut. And whereas Chelsea Girl is predominantly immaculate it is simple to notice that her subsequent triple of synth-laden, broodingly exceptional pop was where Nico felt most at home all along.

The End… initially released in 1974, was a particularly personal record for Nico, built around a centerpiece in her cover of The Doors “The End” with the album weirdly ringing out as a signifier to the demise of Nico’s cultural denomination. The cold, metallic synthesizers and generally claustrophobic aesthetic seem to point towards the rupturing of her bohemian philosophy into a marketable advertising venture and a counter-culture ripe for a corporate raping–which it would suffer through in due time. In retrospect, The End… can come off as a bit prophetic considering the future bastardization of the American hippy culture but I feel it is more engaging to view the record as Nico traversing the tempest in real time as opposed to commenting on its impending dismemberment.

A pity does not bear a single flower,” she coos on the exceptional “We’ve Got The Gold” amongst cascading snythesizers and a post-modern aesthetic. Adhering almost religiously to the Kraut Rock composition via production by John Cale, Nico curiously stares down the gun-barrel demanding the trigger be pulled. She understands her misgiving and apprehensions will bring her no support from her peers, yet cannot help reiterating that feeling sorry for yourself will get you nowhere. This lyrical theme permeates itself throughout The End… – its purest form on display with “You Forgot To Answer,” an achingly gorgeous tune that Nico penned following her discovery of Jim Morrison’s death. An ex-lover of hers, she had attempted to contact him via phone to no avail, only to find out hours later he had passed. “The high tide is taking everything / And you forget to answer” are lyrics that still ring as bone-chilling as they had nearly forty years prior. “When I remember what to say / You will know me again / And you forget to answer” she continues, her brooding voice engrossed in wiry Harmonium fills and wind-swept production effects, granting the tune an ethereal presence befitting its particular topic. Yet she does not take any time to pity herself, instead reflecting on the situation, stone-faced and stern, this literal albeit passionate disposition is what grants Nico’s haunting baritone such gravitas. And The End… along with her ominous croon have not become worse for wear over the years.

As far as re-issues are concerned Nico’s fourth LP is given a new sense of life through a warm mixing job that adds a new depth to the bass tones and almost aquatic rumbles of her Harmonium, allowing her keys to sound as though they were being projected over a still bay. The End… exisist within a particular musical aesthetic—there is this single tone that seemingly resonates throughout every track—yet this grants the record a certain level of cohesion evident most successfully during the Peel Session tracks on the record’s second disc. Along with her sets of Rainbow Theatre and Old Grey Whistle live recordings Nico’s velvet veil is draped across her audience, pulsating through the speakers, unhindered by any studio tricks or a menagerie of on-stage guests. These sets ultimately came down to the woman, her instrument and that voice — which grants her otherwise ethereal music tangibility — to lead us down a dark and gloomy path. Her trek moves toward light, though, glistening on the horizon, allowing your yearn to proceed. Will you follow to the end? Forty years ago folks began to. Why stop now?

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