The Nomi Song
2004, NR, 96 min. Directed by Andrew Horn.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 25, 2005
Once you’ve seen and heard Klaus Nomi, né Klaus Sperber, it’s simply impossible to forget him, try though some people might. A German-born, classically trained operatic singer, performance artist, and genuine human anomaly, Nomi moved from his native Essen, Germany, to the legendarily fertile artistic petri dish that was New York City’s East Village in the mid-to-late Seventies. Once there, for want of a better term, he transmogrified from a gawky exchange student-type into one of the most stridently surreal musicians in pop music history. Looking like a wild-eyed, New Wave elf with a penchant for angular, outsized vinyl tuxedos, Nomi possessed a soaring tenor that frequently lifted off into a falsetto range outstripping even fellow Deutchland expat Nina Hagen. Despite a memorable appearance in Derek Burbidge’s New Wave music documentary Urgh! A Music War (alongside then-edge-cutters Wall of Voodoo, Oingo Boingo, and XTC), and a well-received album to boot, Nomi’s career never took flight. Horn’s endlessly fascinating documentary not only acts as a gateway for a whole new generation of artistically inclined freaks (in the best sense of the word) primed to discover this utterly unique performance artist, but it’s also a loving look back at the New York scene during its most vibrantly heady punk rock heyday. Informative and touching remembrances from the likes of ultra-hip artists Kenny Scharf, performance gadfly Ann Magnuson, and surviving scenesters and friends Tony Frere, Man Parrish, and Nomi’s manager Ron Johnsen paint a verbal portrait of Nomi, a talented vocalist who merged his bizarre, ultra-androgyny with a futuristic fashion sense and ended up creating a vibe so far out that no one in the recording industry quite knew what to do with him. Despite his successes, Nomi was, as one former band member recalls, "the loneliest guy in the world." In the end, AIDS, the tragic coda too common to the Village art scene of the Eighties, took Klaus Nomi as well. Echoed again and again in Horn’s film by friends and rivals alike is the idea that Nomi was the outcast’s outcast. Thankfully, The Nomi Song should go a long way toward recementing this striking creature’s legendary status.