Forget Devo, Nico, Bowie, or Beefheart: The most mesmerizing freak show in the history of rock & roll was Klaus Nomi, the new-wave android opera queen from Germany. His appearance alone could stop traffic. He would stand on stage in his oversize plastic triangle of a tuxedo, his body rigid as a mannequin’s, his face ghostly white, with a moue of puckered black lips that made him resemble the emcee from Cabaret gone Mars, the whole sci-fi Kabuki look topped off by a widow’s peak that might have been sculpted by the Lollipop Guild. Then the punchline: He opened those lips, and out poured a severe yet soaring Teutonic soprano, which he applied to pounding synth-pop vehicles of startling kitsch grandeur.
To watch The Nomi Song, Andrew Horn’s loving and meticulous documentary, is to recognize that Nomi, one of the early artistic casualties of AIDS (he died in 1983), was, in his postmodern, Berlin-is-burning way, a crackpot visionary whose music has only grown more gripping with the years. Off stage, he was gentle and quite lonely, a winsome expatriate who liked to make pastry for his friends. In concert, we see him project the image that he was literally from another world. The Nomi Song convinces you it was a beautiful one.