My friend Mike lent me Desertshore based upon the assumption that I'd go ga-ga for the wild combination of Nico's gloomy voice and medieval vibes. He was right, of course, and this spooky, funereal, and oddly beautiful album has been whisking me off to moors and other dying lands for days.?Her strange voice makes for an interesting listening experience, one that on the first few go-rounds is like listening to a foreign language, which often times it actually is (“Abschied”, “Mutterlein” and the creepy “Le Petit Chevalier“, sung by a little boy who sounds like a trapped ghost wandering the halls of an abandoned estate). But the more you listen, bits of lyrics begin to speak out:
You are beautiful and you are alone!,
Their hands are old
Their faces cold
Their bodies close to freezing,
Deceive the Devil's deed!
The cryptic lyrics don't offer too much insight into exactly what Nico was trying to say (I assume she was kind of down, kind of vague, kind of witchy and with a less than cheery outlook on the world), but they certainly help to build the overwhelming feeling Desertshore evokes in its listeners, a feeling perhaps unique to the individual. There's definitely a prevailing theme of motherhood here, and we all know that she was among rock history's worst – but she's no hypocrite, it's not a celebration of the joys of parenting. After all when was Nico ever joyful? Even at her most radio friendly on These Days, she can only manage completely soul crushing regret at best.
Some of the songs (“Abshied” and “Mutterlein”) were made for her collaboration film La Cicatrice Interieure with then-lover Philippe Garrel. I?didn't want to know the movie's plot because I wanted to interpret what this short but haunting music was about for myself – turns out there was no reason for caution because from what I've read, the film is largely plot-less, consisting essentially of Nico walking around a desert looking fabulous.
The arrangement by John Cale, a Brix Picks fave, is sometimes genius – particularly in the albums most dynamic (and my favorite) song All That is My Own – a layered, Medieval, goth, experimental should-be classic.
Desertshore may not qualify as a classic yet, it has few fans (or even people who've heard it) but you'll find by looking around the internet that those fans are rabid. It's like a charm spell and if you're taken in you can never escape the wailing of the blond siren… or at least it's the type of album I'd like to imagine has those kinds of powers.