Posted by: buggy | 28 July, 2005

Toothless Effort

Amazon’s Mathew Cooke writes, “Trent Reznor has always been a one-trick-pony, but it’s a damn good trick: sunny melodies filtered through ferocious electronics. Unfortunately, the trick’s impact was often watered down by a tendency toward petulance and self-absorption.

Bugg’s Take

Sunny melodies?? Matt, what have you been smoking? I would hardly consider little ditties like Wish:

this is the first day of my last days,

i’m the one without a soul i’m the one with this big fucking hole

no new tale to tell twenty-six years on my way to hell

gotta listen to your big time hard line bad luck fist fuck

to be sunny. It’s been 6 long years since Nine Inch Nails released the seminal The Fragile, and Trent really does seem to have mellowed. Either that or commercial forces have persuaded him to release an altogether less experimental and more mainstream album this time round. Where’s the anger? Where’s the vitriol? Where’s the blood and guts, Trent?

In place of NIN rage-classics like Broken, or the X Files-like spookiness of The Fragile, Reznor has opted for an altogether more organic feel this time round. NIN had previously been more of a one-man-band-project, with Trent and his Mac and Pro Tools and his raging vocals. But with this outing, NIN seems more like a real band, even with Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) contributing his powerful, bullet-to-the-head style of drumming. Unfortunately, Grohl’s drumming seems to be one of the few highlights on this album. Album title track “With Teeth” is saved by Grohl’s pounding, jackhammer drumming. On it, Reznor sings “the roles have changed, the lines begin to blur”. That probably hits the nail (major brownie points for those who caught the subtle pun here, duh) on the head perfectly. Reznor seems to be at a crossroads in his music career. Possibly trying to re-invent himself.

Standout tracks to me are the retro-flashback ones like album opener “All The Love In The World”, which harkens back to The Fragile era and serves as a reminder to listeners of where we’re coming from. Following that is the Wish-esque “Know What You Are”, where Trent appropriately assaults the senses with the line “Don’t you fucking know what you are?” Sadly that line seems to frame this entire NIN outing perfectly. Certainly Reznor still has his one trick and he’s still awesome at it. But the remaining tracks on the album are campy and very 80s. Precious few of these 80s mutants are worthy of mention, save “Everyday Is The Same”, in which Reznor applies his witchcraft to a sound right out of Eurasure’s songbook. Excellent stuff. However, tracks like The Collector and Sunspots are simply horrid and smack of filler material. C’mon Trent, I know you’re better than that. The first single culled from this album, “The Hand That Feeds” shows the new dynamic at work in the Nails camp. The dance-bop chorus wouldn’t be out of place on a disco floor. Oh the humanity…

At least Reznor can’t be accused of sitting on his laurels. In true pioneering fashion, Reznor has released the pre-production version of the song on multitrack softcopy for his fans to remix and remaster. With this bold move, Reznor has shattered the ivory tower of the recording industry. In a field where intellectual property is guarded as jealously as the Holy Grail, here is an artiste who is freely distributing his source material for his fans to play around with. The song is compiled in Pro Tools, on a Apple Powerbook. You can download it here. Trent says:

“Hello all- For quite some time I’ve been interested in the idea of allowing you the ability to tinker around with my tracks – to create remixes, experiment, embellish or destroy what’s there. I tried a few years ago to do this in shockwave with very limited results. After spending some quality time sitting in hotel rooms on a press tour, it dawned on me that the technology now exists and is already in the hands of some of you. I got to work experimenting and came up with something I think you’ll enjoy. What I’m giving you in this file is the actual multi-track audio session for “the hand that feeds” in GarageBand format. This is the entire thing bounced over from the actual Pro Tools session we recorded it into. I imported and converted the tracks into AppleLoop format so the size would be reasonable and the tempo flexible. So… You need a Macintosh and you need GarageBand 2.0. If you have a newer Mac, you already have the software. The more RAM you have the better. I did this on a PowerBook 1.67 w/ 2G RAM but it has been running on far less powerful systems. Drag the file over to your hard disk and double click it. Hit the space bar. Listen. Change the tempo. Add new loops. Chop up the vocals. Turn me into a woman. Replay the guitar. Anything you’d like. I gave this to my crew and band to test out and all work effectively stopped for a while – it’s fun to mess around with. I’ve now heard a country version of the track as well as an abstract Latin interpretation (thanks, Leo). There are some copyright issues involved, so read the notice that pops up. Giving this away is an experiment. I’m interested to see what comes of it, what issues are raised and what the results are. Have fun

– Trent Reznor April 15, 2005″

Perhaps he’s lost his way somewhat. Perhaps it comes in the autumn years… What price a more commercial and MTV friendly album? Sorry, but this listener demands more spook and spittle. Not Boy George and Duran Duran. I still love ya Trent, here’s looking forward to the next album.

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