July 19, 1982 12:00 PM

Nina Hagen

Every time Nina rolls an R, you feel as if a submachine gun has just belched lead into your gut. “Singing” seems a pale word to describe what she does. Her style (another inadequate word) encompasses early Yoko Ono hysteria, Lene Lovich irony, Wicked Witch of the West cackling, froggy baritone imitations and maniacal gurgling. That leaves out her Wagnerian operatic booming, the giggles, coughs, murmurs, the falsetto exclamations, the dive-bomber whines, the…oh, well, you get the idea. If Nina seems intent on exercising every last inch and decibel of artistic freedom, it’s for good reason. Born and raised in East Berlin, she got into the rock, acting and political protest scenes there, but soon began chafing under the state’s restrictions. As Nina tells her tale, she penned a frenetic letter to the authorities in 1976, when she was 21, claiming to be the daughter of an exiled anti-regime musician. She threatened to carry on his work if not allowed to leave at once. She had her visa in four days, she says. Hagen has since put together a magnificent seven-piece band featuring veteran sessionman Chris Spedding on guitar. The music is Bowie-influenced and Teutonic, with German phrases sprinkled throughout. Yet rhythmically it moves like a snake. Some might question the story of Hagen’s escape; others might listen to this album (her second American release) and wonder if Hans Yvonovich Hagen, as she calls herself in Born in XIXAXI, isn’t bent on destroying the West.

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