I want to believe in God but He never seems to show Himself around
I want’a believe in people but they always seem to let me down
Diamonds won’t help…
Velvet, your Velvet Underground records won’t help
They won’t help you now, oh no no no no no Oh no, oh no no no
So sings, Inger Lorre on ‘Death of a Scenster’ from The Nymphs, a sneering put down on a whole LP of sneering, chilly, put downs. In fact, appropriately enough given this week’s Polar Vortex, ‘Cold’ is the main adjective I’d use to describe this record, as in cold-turkey, cold-shouldered, cold-hearted and cold-arsed*, listen and you get the chill of interstellar space and a freezing drugged-out withering disdain coming ‘atcha loud and clear. Yummy.
The Nymphs were the brainchild of singer Inger Lorre (at least according to her), combustible chick, former model from NJ, sufferer of manic-depressive episodes and veteran/possessor of some nasty chemical habits who moved out to LA and put together the band in 1989 mining that same seamy underbelly of the city that Jane’s Addiction had burst out of. The Nymphs was recorded in 1989 and due to problems with mixing / problems with Geffen records, sat in the can for two years, making them look a bit like bandwagon jumpers when it did finally come out; in protest at Geffen loaning out producer Bill Price so GNR could finish Use Your Illusion, Inger Lorre pissed all over Tom Zutaut’s desk. Referring to THE AWESOME SCRAPBOOK OF ROCK let her tell her own story:
There’s more of course, she was the ex-girlfriend of Chris Schlosshardt of, 1537 faves, The Sea Hags, when he died, Geffen Records apparently insisted she spent 30 days in a psychiatric ward, she pleasured her boyfriend (different one) live on stage one evening as the band split up around her (again), feuded with Courtney Love** and held maggots in her mouth for the video of ‘Sad and Damned’. She also wore cool burlesque-style gear way before people had rediscovered that word again. I was smitten, good style.
Oh wait, there’s music too? such is always the problem with a phenomenally interesting front-person in a band, it’s all too easy for the interest to stop right there. There was music, good music too. I whipped out and bought the 12″ Sad And Damned as soon as it was released. A generous 4-tracker, with three LP cuts and a demo version of ‘The Highway’ their song about a woman falling in love serial-killer Richard Ramirez (based on one of the band’s friends, who did) which I prefer to the version on The Nymphs because it was a bit clumsier and rawer it was good value for money.
Now the music of the Nymphs (and for that matter The Nymphs) is an interesting one, essentially I’d class it as a jagged indie take on glam rock, the tunes swimming in and out of view in a narcotic haze. Jet Freedom (possibly not his given name?) and Sam Merrick are good, loud guitarists and there and drummer Alex Kirst is noticeably excellent^. Ironically given all the tussles over Bill Price and his mixing I think the LP has been mixed really poorly, burying a chunk of the dynamics, but there are some real gems and some real moments if you peer through the gloom.
I’m a fan of the scabrous biting cold of, umm, ‘Cold’, it has an excellent acidic slash of guitar after Inger howls the line ‘He loves me!’, that was worth the price of the LP alone for me. I love the leisurely swing of the Dave Navarro-like riff of ‘Heaven’, which of course gets massive 1537 bonus points for having a spoken bit in towards the end, gotta love a spoken bit – even if it is espousing pretty adolescent views about organised religion – SPOILER ALERT: desk-pissing, sometime heroin-using, public fellatrix^^ Inger Lorre isn’t wholly in favour of it.
There are some good tunes too, ‘Sad and Damned’ works a treat for me, with its hazed-out regrets and defiance, its interesting played a little upbeat and with a sunnier production it could very well be a big mainstream rock tune and it does feature a good, low rumbling solo. ‘Revolt’ is pretty pogo-friendly and sparky, possibly the most conventionally rock tune here, whilst ‘Just One Happy Day’ kicks The Nymphs off in fine style, the forlorn craving for ‘just one happy day’ really hits the spot, it is incidentally the best-produced track here in my reckoning and it still sounds utterly brilliant cranked up really high.
Some of the LP gets a bit too mired in the sludge, the Iggy Pop guest spot ‘Supersonic’ in particular falls victim to this, Mr Osterberg shouting ‘It’ll all be over soon’ at the song’s beginning and muttering along to the track in places, it ain’t great. Coupled with that there’s a few bits where it all becomes a bit of an effort.
For me it does fall short of ‘lost classic’ status, although I do really think it merits a listen and The Nymphs has been written out of 90’s alternative/rock/grunge history a bit too hastily. It’s a stroppy little album that doesn’t get along or mix well with all the other records in my collection, sitting off by itself and sulking, before going out dressed-up in polka-dot shoes and something made up entirely of feathers and beads to an impossibly dark underground club, to sit scowling at a table by itself, sneering at all the other LPs having a good time. True.
*okay so I made the last one up, arrest me.
**I know, I know, I’m one of the few people left in the world who hasn’t. It’s an angry ‘phone message from Lorre that features towards the end of the Hole track ‘Sassy’, telling Love that ‘her reputation is shit in this town’.
^a fact not lost on Iggy Pop who tried to steal him at one point and pounced as soon as Nymphs finally split. He played with Iggy for 10 years and became one of his Trolls playing with him until his sad death in a hit and run incident in 2011.
^^ is ‘fellatrix’ a real word? or did I just like totally invent something cool?