Flash Metal Suicide: The Nymphs
This week: the debut album from a band remembered for all the wrong reasons
“I'm damned, I'm damned, and I'm so, so sad” - Sad and Damned
I've been reading the KLF book (Chaos Magic Music Money) all week, and here's the thing: you never know what you're gonna be remembered for, especially if you come unglued while wading in the snake-infested waters of the music industry. Realistically, what we should remember about the KLF is the remarkable rock'n'roll swindle they pulled. On a hunch, after hearing some early hip-hop, they thew some samples together and wrote two or three songs, all of 'em cracking the UK top ten. Somehow or another, they managed to rewrite and remix those three songs into about seventeen albums, emptying many punter pockets in the process. And one of the songs was about Doctor Who, for chrissakes. I mean, the balls on those two. But what most people remember about the KLF is that in 1994, they were stupid/crazy enough to take their last million bucks and literally burn it.
They still don't know why they did it. The band was over by then, nobody was even paying attention. They could've just trotted out special editions of 3 AM Eternal every few years and spent the rest of their lives in some villa somewhere. But instead, they decided to make some kinda statement about how worthless money is. But it's only worthless to dopes with enough of it to burn. The rest of us have to keep getting up at 7 AM and trudging to the shit factory if we wanna eat today. So what I'm saying is, the KLF really fuckin' blew it.
It's the same trip with the Nymphs, basically. One screwy moment, encased in amber forever. I'm not saying you shouldn't remember the Nymphs – the opposite really, I'm telling you how ridiculously vital they were – but what I am saying is that if most people remember them at all, it's because of that one time their singer, Inger Lorre, pissed on Tom Zutaut's desk in the Geffen offices. You remember him, he's the A&R guy who's always taking credit for signing GN'R. Which is fine, but fast-forward a couple years and he had Jersey transplants The Nymphs locked-down in Hollywood, postponing the release of their debut album for months and months and attempting to coerce their glamorous lead singer to dump her scruffy bandmates and go solo. So, you know, eventually she couldn't take it anymore, and one sunny afternoon in 1991, she walked into his office, pulled down her fishnets, and peed on his desk.
The album did eventually get released, but clearly, things were tense between the Nymphs and the label and a year later, in a bizarre twist of fate, the rest of the band fired Inger. And that was the end of The Nymphs. I'm just a lowly rock journalist so I'm not gonna wade into gender politics here, but I contend that if, say, Axl Rose or Kurt Cobain pulled that urinary trick, it would be at the number one spot in every “All-time Bad-ass Rock Star Moves” list. But because she was a woman, essentially Inger got a rep as being highly unstable. Hell, she even quit drinking and years later apologized to that creep. Did Ozzy ever apologize to all the A&R hacks he pissed on? And the worst part of it all is, that became the band's legacy. A piss-stained desk. When really, it should be the astounding, enthralling, frightening, and empowering album they made.
There is no greater snapshot of the 1990s than The Nymphs album, and really, the 90s hadn't even started yet. They were way ahead of the curve on the whole misery-core wave that infected alt-rock for the next half a dozen years. And it wasn't a pose, either. This was genuine despair wrapped up in a delicious glam-grunge cocktail. The songs on this album are barely even songs, really, at least not in the verse-chorus-verse-chorus bullshit paradigm pop music had been operating on for forty years. These were swirling death-dirges played on glittery T Rex guitars, sung by a woman who looked like a movie star but felt like a monster.
The glam-goth-grunge roar of the guitars were clearly aiming for the back rows of the arena, and by any metric, the album sounds huge, a towering mountain of sound and fury, but its Lorre's vocals that mesmerise, a howl of pure anguish, the sound of a woman staring into the abyss and realising it was staring right back at her. While Guns N' Roses – realistically the only real competition the Nymphs would've ever had – spent 1991 trying to sell the public on self-referential spoiled rock star garbage like Back off Bitch and Get In the Ring, The Nymphs offered the dire, unfettered truth about rock n' roll in songs like Just One Happy Day (“There's a coin in the fountain but it's way too deep for me”) and Death of a Scenester (“Your Velvet Underground records won't help, THEY WON'T HELP”). More than a mere album, The Nymphs is a fully immersive sensory experience. It's like taking all the pills in the cabinet at once, or maybe just not taking any of your pills at all and seeing what happens. It's hell with the lid off, and it's utterly fucking gorgeous. And it's also true, every bitter word.
But, you know, Inger's the crazy one, right?
Anyway, forget all the antics, and just listen to the record. It's amazing.
PS: Inger's got a new band called Chiefs of Infinity. They're not any happier than The Nymphs were.
Next week: Back to some wack spandex band, surely.