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neurological dryer lint

dirty deeds... and the dunderchief

 

black and blue and broken bones

 #3: nine inch nails - the downward spiral



i couldn't tell you what got me listening to this band. there's no distinct memory of my first listen, although i want to say i heard wish in a movie or on the radio or something and it got me to pick up broken. i remember how startled i was at the brutality of that disc.

so when spiral was released in '94 i wasn't sure how trent could top broken in emotional intensity. curious that, at the time, i saw aggression as the only emotional response to a rock album. i wasn't sure how he could get any angrier. where would he go from here?

excited nonetheless, fascinated by talk on IRC and in usenet about the disc (i'd heard it was supposed to be a concept album, about a drug addict's descent into oblivion), i picked it up, puzzled by the strange album art, and popped it in.

mr. self destruct. what is going on in the beginning of this song? for some reason i always imagined it as two guys playing basketball (turns out it's from THX1138). the track is loud, layered, and then suddenly halfway through it goes shockingly quiet, trent whispering "you let me do this to you" and "i am an exit" over and over. then crawls back into the beat, back to normal, and finishes with a flood of noise that washes everything else out, and several long seconds of distortion...

into piggy. trent whispers "hey pig". what? a drum, bass and synth swamp, chilling and satisfying. i remember being fascinated by how the drums sounded. i hadn't quite heard anything like it - mixed as if they were the most important instrument. "nothing can stop me now."

heresy. "God is dead and no one cares". felt anxious rebellion listening to it... now it seems cheap and kind of boring. i usually skip it.

march of the pigs. i was a bit confused by this track at first - embarassingly enough i thought my CD player was skipping. nope, it just wasn't a traditional beat, instead a return to the fury i remembered from broken... why the crap does he keep talking about pigs? "doesn't it make you feel better?" the piano interludes don't sound out of place at all, even in the midst of the heavy guitar and trent's growling.

closer. the intro is so hypnotic. lures you in to what is actually kind of a repetitive track, at least until the bridge and synth solo around the end. i remember when this was a single, and it was so vastly different from everything else that was in the top 20, it made me laugh. like it was a completely different language from everything else. the pop stuff that was next to it was like a coloring book next to a van gogh.

ruiner. the album changes direction here. it stops being a playground of anger and lust and begins to feel more serious. another infectious beat. every track seems to take the one before it, stomp on it, and rearrange it into something completely different.

then the becoming... at times this has been my favorite track of the disc. the intro, scurrying into another complex, synth covered beat. more people screaming, maybe laughing? following the theme - the acoustic guitar break in the middle of the song. almost to give you a breather from the barrage. the live version from still is much better IMHO.

i do not want this. probably the most compelling drum track of the disc. the piano is gentle, a spine of peace running the length of the track amidst the guitar. at 1:30 it goes to just drum and you're kind of just suspended there...

big man with a gun... crude, but effective.

a warm place, something completely unexpected. this track has often been a backdrop for prayer for me, just because it's so comforting and peaceful.

eraser. buzzing flies, or a woman humming? more dominating percussion, startling if you aren't expecting it. the calm generated by the previous track disappears. the repeated screams of "kill me" at the end also startling.

reptile. another strange, syrupy track that seemed out of place here... in the overall aesthetic i felt like it should have been placed after the becoming, but maybe that would have made the end of the disc completely depressing. not that this track is rainbows and puppies, but it's outward focused instead of a moody self-analysis.

the downward spiral. fascinating, jarring, disturbing, a (relatively) short track about suicide. "everything's blue in this world"...

hurt. i may be one of the only fans of this band that doesn't like this song much. maybe because it represents death, and the end of life, from a time when i really feared it, and i associate the song with those feelings of fear. even though it's not really a completely hopeless track, just sad and contemplative.

the deluxe edition of this album is absolutely worth a listen. the dynamic of nearly every song changes slightly when listened to in 5.1 surround. a masterpiece IMHO, a collection of some poignant and profound statements on humanity's self-obsessed, self-destructive nature, a shining example of how badly we need saving.

from the becoming:

i beat my machine
its a part of me its inside of me
i'm stuck in this dream
it's changing me, i am becoming
the me that you know had some second thoughts
he's covered with scabs and he is broken and sore
the me that you know doesnt come around much
that part of me isn't here anymore
all pain disappears
its the nature of my circuitry
drowns out all I hear
no escape from this my new consciousness
the me that you know he used to have feelings
but the blood has stopped pumping and he is left to decay
the me that you know is now made up of wires
and even when i'm right with you i'm so far away
i can try to get away but i've strapped myself in
i can try to scratch away the sound in my ears
i can see it killing away all of my bad parts
i dont want to listen but its all too clear

hiding backwards inside of me i feel so afraid
annie, hold a little tighter i might just slip away

it wont give up it wants me dead
g@(#* this noise inside my head

 

for this post

 
Blogger B-Call Says:

Dude, there better be a Weird Al album in here somewhere.

 
 
Anonymous Anonymous Says:

i beat my machine this morning in the shower

 
 
Blogger B-Call Says:

ZING!

Come on J. You knew that was coming.

 
 
Blogger Justin Hall Says:

yikes

 

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