The Nuns are an enigma. Who are they? From where did they evolve? What happened to them? Why are they so under known? How did they implode and why didn't any of the members go on to be in any other important bands? How did they elude a place in the punk pantheon? All are good questions and very few answers. Not many facts here. Despite being darlings of Rodney on the ROQ notoriety escaped them. They also created the memorable 80's song, Suicide Child, from this self-titled debut album that etched a faint scratch in the history of punk.
Based in San Francisco and started by drummer Alejandro Escovedo, The Nuns could sell out the notorious Mubahay Gardens twice in a night. The Nuns had a solid six songs in their catalog. Lead singer, Jennifer (Anderson) Miro had a reputation as the west coast Blondie. With a name like The Nuns and a great sound that linked the west coast to the New York-style glam, pre-punk passage into Ramones style NYC punk. The Nuns mutated androgyny, heroin, ego-accelerated sneering and searing boredom that leeched out in a time-relevant tone. All these elements lead to courtship from major labels.
The Nuns reissued CD comes in a glossy, two fold, Digipak. A pink interior that has limited liner notes giving just enough background to understand the bands origins, but not much else. My research found that these liner notes are pretty much the only info to be found on The Nuns. The artwork is a posterized, graphic photo of the boys in the band wearing Nun's habits standing in the background ogling Jennifer Miro as she struts past, front and center, draped in a new-wave/punk leopard skin coat. The look is cheap Andy Warhol with lipstick trace coloring and hand scrawled lettering. I assume this is a reformatted, reprint of the original cover. It is very L.A. punky and very new wave, psuedo-andro-sexy.
Savage starts the scant 27 minutes of music on this album. Two-hand drum pounding is the entry point and blazing metal/punk guitar cuts and slices in. The introduction of Miro's vocals clearly illustrate why she was deemed the "west coast Blondie". Miro's sound is not exactly alike but the similarity is somewhat unnerving. Is it just a rip-off? On the songs; You Think You're the Best and Wild, the Blondie overlap is more blatant. The music is far too rock-based to be Blondie. The style bleed-through make the sound more convolution than revolution.
Media Control, World War III and Child Molester are decent rockers that have little heart on the lyrical delivery but the music is rock solid. They know the pop parables with hooks that dig and cut. The Nuns subjects are true punk fears, death, nukes, the media's lies, people who use you then spit you out. With the un-phasing lyrical detachment while presenting tragic subjects, they fall flat. Even so, the music kicks.
Walkin' the Beat is a fantastic track. Killer sound. It is a shame I never heard it before. There is a multitude of great licks and hooks that make this track leap out with real affect where other tracks are more affectation. Ear-splitting guitar announces in a siren's wail, Neu-ish drum beats, and the guitar settles down and when the keyboards enter you hear the origins of Inspiral Carpet 's Commercial Rain. Iggy Pop mashes together with NY Dolls, Rocky Horror and scratching drug cravings. Jeff Oleners voice is fantastic with Miro backing him. The subtle, children's scales keyboard work forecasts the new wave while channeling garage rock. What an incredible sound! Poor production and near live delivery blend the past and the oncoming future. Abruptly and coldly the end comes to a stellar punk/rock classic.
The Nun's most enduring classic song will always be, Suicide Child. The cheesy new-wave church organ intro is laced with mocking sarcasm. Olener's vocals enter with a snotty disdain while stinking of The Shangri-la's Leader of the Pack. He spins his tale of his Suicide Child "Crossed a mile. On the dirty filthy bathroom tile. You walked on by. I was so high. My Suicide Child. Why did you die? You let me down" A song about drug-dazed desire for the beautiful strung out junkie who turns out to be a "stupid bitch" that slit her wrists AND stole his junk. The beginning is a swirling, stumbling, rush through the veins and then the sweetness retrogrades to kicking, spitting anger. The song teeters on seriousness and silliness. The edge creates an enduring intrigue. All the right elements are here to add up to make this tongue-in-cheek tune classic punk, at its best.
Lazy, the last song on the album, is a good end to a raucous, short, rough ride. Jennifer Miro sings with the qualities of Nico, Marianne Faithful, and a loungey torch song cabaret singer. The intro-piano is reminiscent of David Johanson's, Frenchette. Tinkling piano backs up Miro's ballad to lazy boredom. Too lazy to go out and find love. Too sick and tired to get up and go out, only to hear another dumb pick up line. Better just stay at home and watch TV. Short and sweet, it's a druggie Greta Garbo stating her reason for wanting to be alone. Like so many songs of the punk era there is a confusion that arises. Is she mocking others and glad she is not like them? Is she singing about herself? Is it anti-society or is it saying what society has done to me? This is a great song. Too short to be a hit, too slow to slam against but just the right amount of punk condescension, boredom and malaise to be viable while falling two clicks afar from being the real deal.
One thing that encircles The Nuns is whether they were serious. The players are dead-on and made a few great songs but lack the heart and effusive emotion to be taken seriously. This band can collage all the elements of the past and present to create a sound for the future but I don't get that they are musically serious just musically savvy. When Olener sings the band sound is true and his vocals have the right punk inflections. The Nuns have the right pieces to the puzzlement, leather, ego, drugs, anger, sleaziness and a feeling for rock hooks. The band's scattered members had to be persuaded to move to LA reform and complete their first full-length LP because if major label interest. The album was slapped together in 5 days. A coupla' songs got airplay. Despite the greatness in the songs there is a campy quality and novelty to The Nuns. The new 2005 sex-goth metal version of The Nuns it is all novelty.
The Nuns were poisoned posers who combined to rise to a level that is just a happy accident. Sometimes everything falls in place for a moment to produce something enduring but that is all there is to offer. That is why the band went on to nothingness. Drugs had more allure than the music. If there was real heart in this band they would have been able to keep it together and put out something more. Those moments did contain influential sounds but I can't believe that they were intentional. Coerced and used to make this album, they flashed an then they panned.
Re-releasing the debut Nuns album is the last gasp for a band that may have just faded into the 70's -80's punk horizon. The centrifuged layers of the pertinent punk's bloodline contain the thinnest, near clear traces of what comprises the whole. The Nuns are in that strata and are still part of the original substance. With the re-release by Posh Boy of the classic punk compilation, The Best of Rodney on the ROQ, which contains The Nuns-Suicide Child and many other L.A. punk standards, the band has carved out a foothold in the digital recorded history of the west coast punk scene. Even though it is a miniscule part, it is an important part. The debut re-release of The Nuns album safeguards their contribution in the underpinning of American punk's foundation.