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Chris Jones

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Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura

19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A sad end - only for completists, 21 Jan 2004
This review is from: Camera Obscura (Audio CD)
Nico's final studio album, recorded in 1985, is a sad and rather depressing end to a career otherwise marked by eccentricity, uniqueness and brilliance. As is clear, I am a huge fan of Nico's music and I therefore approached this album with as open a mind as possible, looking for any positives, but there are few. What is clear is the extent to which, by 1985, Nico was being used by others for their own benefit, clearly not for her's - heroin addiction and increasing mental problems had made her seemingly unable to realise, or possibly even to care, that this was so.
Many brief overviews of Nico's career depict Camera Obscura as a close relation to, and natural successor to, her 1981 album Drama of Exile. The reality is nothing of the sort. Although Drama of Exile is a little patchy, its main weak points being Nico's ill-advised covers of The Velvet Underground's "Waiting for the Man" and David Bowie's "Heroes" (in each case, Nico attempting to right perceived wrongs of the past) the album as a whole is good. This is mainly due to the sympathetic backing she received from her assembled musicians.
However, by 1985, Nico had moved on, largely due to the death of her chief collaborator in this backing band, Philippe Quilichini. For Camera Obscura she linked up with two musicians from Manchester, one of whom was James Young, the keyboard player who would go on to document life on the road with Nico at this time in the book "Songs They Never Play on the Radio." Gone was the Drama of Exile soundscape, mixing new-wave rock with eastern harmonies, replaced by an unremittingly cold and bleak sound. Synthesized percussion plays in the background, while Young's keyboards hover above, seemingly at random, all the while giving the disconcerting impression of a small child with his first keyboard, trying out as many effects as possible, simply for the sake of it. Needless to say, the is not the right backdrop for a voice such as Nico's. What is all the more bemusing is that the man in the producer's chair is John Cale, who had produced and arranged Nico's landmark albums at the start of the 1970s. Cale's autobiography is disappointing lacking in detail concerning his work with Nico, but is candid about his struggle with drink and drugs at this period - it does seem that Camera Obscura suffered because of this.
I said previously that it seems that Nico was being exploited by others at this time. This certainly is true, but it is also true that Nico was contributing to this by her own attitudes and addicitons. It is certain that Nico saw Camera Obscura as little more than the next small pay cheque to be pocketed whilst waiting for her man. This is all the more said given the one song on the album which does stand out. This is the final song, Koenig, on which Nico is accompanied by nothing more than her own harmonium. Quite why this is so (or quite why she did not employ this approach on more of the songs) is unclear, but the result is startling, a song which would have held its own on any one of Desertshore, The End or even The Marble Index. The song acts as a tantalizing, but ultimately depressing view of the legacy Nico could have left.
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Tremulant Cdep
Tremulant Cdep

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mars Volta Drummer, 9 May 2003
This review is from: Tremulant Cdep (Audio CD)
Absolutely amazing EP, by the way, although the other review said it all. In response to Bored, if anyone's interested - no, The Mars Volta are not aided my a drum machine at all. I saw them support the Chilis in March and Jon Theodore, the drummer, plays this all himself - most original, inventive drummer I've ever heard, so the CD is definitely also a must for any drummers as well!


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