Well, let me first get through a little house-keeping. Penny had a few problems with the old server and wiped it. Now, while I’m going to have my personal blog put back on her server, I might as well bring Plastic Halo, brought over here since it’s not my most important blog. Oh well. So, for the new, welcome. This is a music blog, written by yet another elitist on the internet.
- Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ll know that Nine Inch Nails is releasing a new album. If you (not many mind you) read the old Plastic Halo, you’ll know I’m pretty much a fan. Now, I know not all of you are and that’s okay.
The album itself and the promotion around it has been a fascinating exercise in performance art; telling the story of our world 15 years from now, should greed and corruption keep their current course. The Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that has sprung up has told the back-story of the concept very well. The NiN Wiki does a good job of catching any of you up. I think that’s enough about the ARG and back-story, I’m pretty sure that other music critics are going to talk about it in more length.
Come to the present with me, Mr. Reznor – pissing off the RIAA – leaked the entirety of the album himself here. Definitely, worth listening to. The album itself, tells not just one story as is so prevalent with concept albums but vignettes that all somehow tie together. While this is an interesting way in which to take it, it works. Telling the multiple perspectives of people who willingly let go of their free will, the people who believe that it is their god-given right to ‘do God’s Will’ on Earth, the resisters, the people in between and the people who go from one end of the spectrum to the other creates a collage of stories with the world that has created to hold it all together. Without, I don’t know if it will hold together for those who haven’t been indoctrinated into the world of 0000BA. It’s a risk but is incredibly engaging for the indoctrinated.
The music itself, shows yet another growth in Mr. Reznor’s creativity. Somehow, he’s been able to take computer sounds and drag them through the proverbial mud. Walls of noise are balanced, finally, in a way that wasn’t seen in the last album With Teeth. Hidden gems are thrown about with reckless abandon making you listen to the album through a pair of good headphones. The beats drag you in, and lyrically they are perhaps the best since the Fragile.
A common complaint that I know will show itself, will be the fact there is no in-your-face walls of noise the likes of Gave Up or Wish, but I believe it’s intentional. To start up with a wall of noise in the song Hyperpower! complete with men and women screaming towards the end (listen on headphones), to have it slow burn — try and fail to climb — and then just fade out with Zero Sum seems more intentional and more attuned with the story than anything else.
Speaking of the instrumentals and the pseudo-instrumentals, they are the real standouts of the album. They work much like the openings and closings of chapters. And perhaps the best closer on any Nine Inch Nails’ album Zero-Sum feels like a funeral dirge.
The work is miles from With Teeth, and seems to be the spiritual brother of The Fragile. Sometimes I think I hear The Frail sometimes I think songs like We’re In this Together and Where is Everybody would work superiorly well. Finally I’m beginning to hear links between the songs on the work that are revealing their speakers (singers?) And the stories that they are trying to tell.
It’s a risky work, to be sure, but it’s a work that is evocative and stands out amongst the almost 20 year body of work that Mr. Reznor has accumulated. I’m not sure if it will be ‘understood’ without the background that the ARG gives, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be either. The music itself is a central piece to the puzzle, but it’s the central piece. Sometimes raising more questions than it answers, it is at least worth a listen.
Stand Out Songs: Vessel, God Given, The Warning, Zero Sum