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Nico's Final Masterpiece
on 18 July 2012
This was my first Nico album and always one that I return to. It is more similar to The Marble Index than Desertshore, as it is more thematically linked. The End also happens to be the darkest, most gothic album done by Nico from this trilogy and is definately the hardest listen.
The instrumentation here is much sparser than on the previous records, further adding to that desolate emptiness that pervades a lot of Nico's work. This is done to full effect on You Forget To Answer, what with the sweeping synth of Eno, Cale's piano hammering and Nico's vocals darker and more defeated than ever. Weariness is a big theme of this album, which makes sense as it is called The End after all. The other reason it is called The End is because it contains a cover of The Doors' song of the same title. Nico's version is definately darker than their version and the weariness is so strong inside of her that as the song reaches its climax, Nico can only manage an elongated groan as appose to Morrission's enormous yelps and screams. It is a highlight for me, coming write after the creepiest Nico song on the album, We've Got The Gold, which contains some of Nico's most cryptic lyrics ever.
The album opens misleadingly with the gentle tones of a xylophone fading into Nico's harmonium. But by the time the harmonium takes the stage, you know that this is going to be a dark ride, especially when Nico drones, La, la, la, la, la, la... with a haunting chior right from the souls of entombed ghosts. Despite the fact that Nico does sound weary on this record, it is songs like Secret Side and Valley of The Kings that really show off her vocal ability and prove that she still has the power in her voice so that she does not simply drone in a monotone, as the critics lazily say of her vocal styles.
The one song however, where Nico does drone is on Innocent and Vain (the first Nico song I ever heard) but Eno's screeching synth is the real treat in that track and counteracts wonderfully against Nico's incredibly deep vocals. It is also nice to have Nico's vocals so subdued here because it makes them stand out all the better in the following, Valley of The Kings.
The final track of the ablum is Das Lied Der Deutschen, the old (racist) national German anthem. I personally think that all connotations aside, the song sounds great and because I don't understand a word of it, I just see Nico's vocals in an innocent way as the tune is great and full of passion. It is a nice light touch to end the album on after the darkness that immerses us throughout the nine plus minutes of the title track.
I would recommend this album to people who really love gothic, dark, minimalist albums, because this is what The End does better than Nico's previous two albums. What is probably doesn't do better than they is ease one into the strange world of Nico's innovative music. For that visit Desertshore first, then perhaps go for The Marble Index and finally you get to The End. I don't know about Nico's 80's output, but these albums have definately persuaded me to get them as soon as possible.
(This album is to be re-issued with bonus tracks on the 29th October 2012. It is to contain the John Peel sessions of these songs so it may be a good idea to get that instead).