Friday, April 21, 2006

Jon Tells You What To Think, Part 7

(see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

As most of you probably guessed, Nickelback isn't actually my favourite band of all time.

1. Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral

The Downward Spiral is the first album I ever bought, and somehow all these years later it still remains number one in my collection.

Trent Reznor had shown he had talent on his previous albums but on this one he proved just how good he could be. On the surface his music has a lot in common with industrial, it's aggressive, distorted and abrasive to the ears. However the catchy hooks and arrangements betrays the fact that NIN is actually descended from 80s synthpop more than anything else. Later on Trent would move further towards the arty inaccessible side of industrial with The Fragile and then back towards a more catchy pop style with With Teeth. However on The Downward Spiral he managed to do both styles at the same time, bringing a nice contrast which is reflected by an emotional counterpoint of anger and sadness.

This album is also a genuine concept album, not one in the Roger Waters vein with a literal story but more of a emotional, impressionist sort of narrative. The album opens with 'Mr. Self Destruct', a kind of brutal, distorted Greek chorus overview of the story to come. In it the narrator lists a number of subjects which are coaxing him toward self destruction, which are then dealt with individually in the next few songs: religion in 'Heresy', the pressures of fame in 'March of the Pigs', lust in 'Closer' and of course no-good cheating women in 'Piggy'. After the half way mark the subject matter gradually moves away from these specific subjects and becomes more and more intense while spiralling down into the territory of plain self-loathing.

'A Warm Place' is a quiet gentle respite before the punishing climactic set of 'Eraser', 'Reptile' and 'The Downward Spiral'. In the title track the narrative reaches the bottom of the spiral, and the narrator describes killing himself (“A lifetime of fucking things up fixed, in one determined flash”) and after that harrowing ending, the album closer 'Hurt' (one of NIN's most successful songs) suggests the possibility of recovery. Its message can be summed up by the cliché 'Once you're at the bottom there's nowhere else to go but up' but Trent's version has a lot more subtlety than that. After all, there's always the chance you might just stay at the bottom...

5 comments:

andrew brown said...

lately i've been into 'pantera - the great southern trendkill' as it is incredibly kick ass and heavy and dimebag proves he is the man by having the best solo ever recorded in "floods"

fairy princess said...

I here that your going away party was really good

Jon said...

Yep. People are still throwing up from it now.

andrew brown said...

who had a going away party and who is going away

Jon said...

I had a going away party and I am going away.