The Girl in Black

Se necesita una poca de gracia.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I am a big boy and I will swallow it all...

So I'm probably the last Nine Inch Nails fan on earth to pick up the latest album, With Teeth. I didn't even opt for the dual disc Dolby surround sound version, just the plain ol' regular version. (Honestly, I don't have the surround sound setup to appreciate it. That's what boyfriends are for! ;-) ) And I've only had the album since last night, so bear with my half-baked review.

But again I remember my deep and long lasting love for Trent Reznor.

Well, actually at this point it's more like a profound admiration with some adoration and affection thrown in the mix. Not only is Trent an astounding businessperson, the man is an incredible musician! (A great combination if you want to get anywhere in the music industry, and one that always commands my respect.) The sounds he creates are like none anyone else could ever hope to make. If you do hear something similar, it is only because Trent did it first. And actually, the only time I can think of that I have heard a signature NIN sound is in "Seven Years In Tibet," a David Bowie song from Earthling, the album that Trent worked on with him. The man must have some kind of crazy mad intellectual property copyrights going on behind the scenes or something. Nobody copies NIN's sound (or at least, not well). Few people cover them. They only remix, and probably only at Trent's behest. (Not like I know any of this for certain.)

With Teeth is a good, solid album. It does feel a tad short to me, as if it's filler between more important projects, and it definitely doesn't have the all encompassing musical themes that showed up on The Downward Spiral and were cemented on The Fragile, which made it the masterpiece that it is. (That album is fucking artistic genius, and anyone who doesn't hear that must be deaf.) However, it's not out of line in the grand scheme of things.

At first listen, I almost want to say that Trent's suffering what a lot of brilliant artists who've been around quite a while suffer from. The songs sound a little tired, a little less original. It's as if everything he did built up to The Fragile, and once he hit that pinnacle he fell into a denoument. But it seems more like what happened to Radiohead with Hail To The Theif, which followed up such previous groundbreakings as OK Computer, Kid A, and Amnesiac. But it's still a really good, solid album. I suppose these plateaus have to happen every once in a while. (Let's hope he doesn't go the way of Depeche Mode. Did you listen to Exiter? Yeesh...)

The music itself reminds me a lot of The Fragile for the most part. A mix of electonic/industrial/rock with softer instruments like the piano. And I absolutely love how he uses the piano. Guitars and drums are great for the angry, crunchy sound that NIN can be known for, but when he places those soft piano bits into his compositions it adds this extra depth, this quiet introspection that comes with maturity.

And I think that he's definitely maturing. His lyrics touch on the same old NIN themes that he's always touched on. Lonliness, isolation, etc. etc. (Geez, does he have to break up with a girlfriend before he does every album?) And the man is quite the angst factory. I'm not sure how much of his lyrics are based off of personal experience anymore and how much is just what he think he needs to write. Stuff like "The Collector" sounds a little forced. (Does he really still feel like that?) But there's an older sensibility to other songs, like "Right Where It Belongs," "The Hand That Feeds," and "Every Day Is Exactly The Same." This isn't the fucked-up youth angry and confused by the world. He's played the game, seen the world, and it's still the same goddam mess that it was ten years ago.

I'm not sure whether he's actually writing about himself, or commenting on the desperate lives of people as a whole, but I hear a lot of complexity in what he's saying. "What if everything around you / Isn't quite as it seems / What if all the world you think you know / Is an elaborate dream / And if you look at your reflection / Is it all you wanted to be? / What if you could look right through the cracks / Would you find yourself / Find yourself afriad to see?" I hear the thoughts of someone who has lived their life in one specific way for so long, and senses a need to change, but doesn't know how to do it. Or perhaps is afraid. Or both. And I can definitely relate to that.

It's kind of scary to admit, but NIN has been an integral part of my life as I have grown up. For a significant amount of the black moods I have been in since the age of fifteen, Trent Reznor has come up with a musical idea that expressed perfectly how I was feeling. He's usually pretty good at summing everything up into one perfect, catchy little phrase. "Tried to save myself but myself keeps slipping away" is so perfect! Unfortunately, "Why do you get all the love in the world?" sounds a tad more whiny. But it's okay, I can forgive. The complexity of the music he's making more than makes up for the less-than-profound lyrics. And there's something deeper going on under the surface, I am sure of it.

And I can't wait to hear what he comes out with next.


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