Apr 19, 2007



Once every 10 years or so a thing comes across the bow that should be duly noted.
In the late 90's I worked as a builder of highways in the perpetual state of Idaho. I walked the latitude and longitude of the state stifled and listening mostly to KRIC out of Rexburg to get my NPR fixes. It was my informational heroin. The co-workers, (mostly headbangers and Z103 kind of people) thought I was daffy, but I didn't care. I thought their practice of warming cans of Campbells Chunky over the hearth of hot asphalt was weird. . . I even took part in the unholy gustitory communion myself and came to know that it was not wholly evil when a boy was hungry for something hot at noon in the Idaho July. Like I say. . . Hot times require hot measures.

That year I heard a little exposé on NPR about a band and their album that was forecasted to change perceptions of modern music. OK computer. I was skeptical. That Christmas my pal Mitchell gifted me the album. One of the few that I still cherish and absorbs me with every playing. That was the Christmas where everything changed for me. Not because of the Radiohead, but it was nice to have the perfect soundtrack to accompany the sudden alien cloud in which I found myself gasping for anything resembling oxygen. Ten years later, in vino veritas, it is true. . . Thom Yorke's voice, the Greenwood boys. They changed everything.

I could be wrong. i usually am in matters of providence and fortune. But I have a feeling that this new NIN album is something. Maybe you don't like the NIN - that is fine. I'm not here to debate you. But for every decade they say there is an album that typifies the generation. Where Ok Computer exposed the dissociative life of the dot com bubble times, Year Zero voices the anxiety of something like the first discovery that the Great Father's Iron Horse is rushing like a tsunami upon your children. . .

But that's just my impression. I'd like to hear a bit of what you peeps think.

All this time, I thought that a death-star balloon would kick ass.
I have obviously been well plussed.

-iso

23 comments:

Chaucer Arafat said...

T. Rex--

i think you might have something there. all I can say for the album so far is that Trent has been dipping from the Merzbow well...deeply.

'The Downward Spiral' was already one of those defining albums for me. it turned my 14 year old world upside down. To me it is Trent's magnum opus, and so far Year Zero hasn't yet held the proverbial candle to it...but these things take time.

Sublime hot air baaaallllooooonnn. Filling it up would sound like a prolonged Vader death rattle.

Chaucer Arafat said...

also, the thermo-chrome disc was very astounding, because I hadn't heard about it...and when I pulled it out...

Shamus said...

I read an article by Klosterman about something I swear was called "Futurism". (One of you can correct me if I'm wrong. I won't be hurt.) Anyway, the idea of futurism is that an artist creates something ahead of its time and the rest of the world hurries to catch up or understand it.

I felt OK Computer was that for me. It felt like I stepped into the future and heard something I had no idea how to comprehend, then had to come back and explain it to someone. Maybe that someone was myself, this metaphor is confusing me now.

I will have to give the new NIN album a try. I agree that Trent is a genius and Downward Spiral shook all perceptions for me when I heard it just like OK Computer.

I have to go think about a really bad extended metaphor now...

Chaucer Arafat said...

T. Rennx: I have been thinking about this thread over the weekend, and I have to ask (per our earlier conversations about America): is it the message of Year Zero or the music that makes it so monolithic for you (or the obvious meeting of the twain, with a dash of timing)?

isopraxis said...

Well G, I have been debating the same point with myself. . . is it the media, is it the massage, is it the music? Could it be that the combination and synthesis of the three are what I find pleasing? I am caught up in it with the sense that the entire gestalt is evolving - I find that end of it scintillating.

This one is different though. But as a whole, I find Year Zero to be so nicely cohesive albumwise. In comparison, previous releases seem much more like a bag of singles packaged together. I haven't given it enough extended random listening to say for myself if each song holds up as well as a single, but as an A-Z listenthru, it indeed has the heft of a dystopic-wagnerian cycle.

I also love the way the mythology (plausible or not, as it may be) has already flushed out the middle-men types; what with the RIAA threatening to sue themselves over the release of this new album for PHREE on the intarwebs. The USB drive in the bathroom stall. All these things pile into the consciousness, and pool themselves like drops of mercury congregating in a planar depression. It underlines that no percieved insurgency (musical or otherwise) can ever be destroyed without an equal measure of cannibalism. Trent R. has a knack for this kind of savvy. It is clever, this album is very listenable and it is, in my mind a bellweather for the way pop-media is going to have to adapt if it is to outlive the dinosaurs that are trying to control it.

I admit, I hyperbolized a bit when I compared YZ to OK Computer. They are not fruits of the same tree. But what can you do when you get a live grenade that looks alot like an apple you've tasted before? You throw it at a passing limo.

At least, that's what I'd do.

Chaucer Arafat said...

yessuh...the limo in question being DRM.

the album has been one of the most dynamic PR tropes that I know of (which doesn't say much..i don't read up on PR tropes in my spare time). It has created more than just hype, but an ethos of self-criticism. I get the feeling that not even T. Rez is exculpating himself in song, which makes me respect him even more.

The album in and of itself is great, although it is still, in my mind, a schtick of sorts. Just like Tom Waits wants me to believe that he was at one point dyeing his hair yellow in petrol stations and working on railroad crews, Reznor is trying to get me to believe an image that is not his waking life (which is probably him lifting weights, hanging out with The Flood, going to Dennys, I dunno).

I know that Reznor is in someway sucking from this giant teat that he is decrying, and he admits that, like I mentioned above. But it is still dark vaudeville to me. I know that I should expound on these thoughts better (and express them more clearly) but I am running out the door. the only correlation I can think of is this: Rage vs The Machine's personal statements vis-a-vis the realities of the machine in which they were ensconced. It is hard to take communist subtexts seriously when you are buying albums from Tower Records (RIP)...I mean, shouldn't I have been trading sacks of rice for albums? Or mowing Tom Morrello's lawn? The disconnect can often threaten the sincerity of the music overall and affect my listening. Year Zero marginally saves itself, in my mind, with concept that hypocrisy is ubiquitous and inescapable. The real genius, like you sez Jonny, is the marketing and rights twist. A pragmatic influence that extends beyond the music.

In that sense, for me, revolutionary.

James said...

Case in point. My friend saw Reznor at Denny's in fact. It would be about 1993 or 1994. Kalamazoo is a big stadium tour stopping point between Chicago and Detroit but does not have much open in the late hours. The NIN crew came to Denny's after a show.

My friend is not even clever enough for exaggerations.

Chaucer Arafat said...

Trent loves him some Moons Over My-Hammy, I'd wager..

ibid said...

Who doesn't?

Shamus said...

Or maybe it was the Dagwood. After it was stricken from the menu, Trent vowed never to return. He's a Jack in the Box guy now.

Chaucer Arafat said...

Denny's said to Trent: "you let me vio-late you.."

Chaucer Arafat said...

ok ok ok...straight face back on.

Captain Admiral said...

Ah, man, ain't that the truth? I haven't been back to Denny's since they took the Dagwood off the menu. Stupid, stupid Denny's.

isopraxis said...

There is a literal connection dude.
Ever been to the Denny's in SLC on a late saturday night a few years ago? It was as if the entire industrial/goth scene was fueled on bilgewater coffee and pseudo-egg product deep fried in some petroleum lard substitute with a side of the flapjax drowned in Victory syrup.

Like the transvestite Confetti's crowd, it is most likely changed by now.

Chaucer Arafat said...

The Village Inn near 13E in SLC had what Zoll and I liked to refer to as a "hostit"..we could never quite tell if it was a hostess or host...just fine androgyny. And Jonny raises a good point: we enjoyed our meals amid post-grunge despondents and Robert Smith acolytes.

It is the masochism of eating as such a place that plays so well to that crowd. And the sausage.

Captain Admiral said...

Went to Phoenix to see the Cure in, uh, '92, I think (the Friday I'm In Love (ugh) phase) and after we went to a random Denny's in downtown Phoenix. Turns out it was the "Gay Denny's" where the homosexual crowd gathered on a regular basis. It was also Goth'd out to the Nth degree, so I s'pose it was, in fact, the "Gay Goth Denny's"...or something.

Sadly, I've found that the Denny's in Idaho Falls does not have any such aspirations. I have dubbed it the "Lowest Common Denominator Denny's". Maybe the only Denny's in the world where the average waitstaff IQ is on par with, or perhaps even higher than, the clientele, instead of miles below.

Having said that, when I go there I feel like Luke Wilson in Idocracy.

Chaucer, you and I should venture down there some late night just to moron, errr, people watch.

Azymn said...

Chaucer - I also remember experiencing an uncanny and overwhelming resonance with Reznor's music when I first heard Broken in high school.

For those who haven't heard it yet, NIN put the entire Year Zero album online. It's a gritty, singular, mind-expanding listen. I like it.

On the first pass it felt like the music itself was not as melodically gripping as his other work. Just as isopraxis noted, there weren't any songs that stuck out as obvious choices for singles. It carries a prevalently corrosive timbre (which I enjoy) - but it is Merzbowdacious indeed.

However, after several weeks of listening, my appreciation has expanded. I have to strongly second isopraxis' observation on Year Zero's cohesive nature. Reznor has a tendency to aurally weld tracks together, but Year Zero takes a leap forward by overlaying an apocalyptic narrative to the entire album that transcends individual songs.

The album has a great start. The first four tracks are memorable, and the overall sound of the album is unarguably unique (though every time Capital G comes on I expect Michael Jackson to jump in and bust out The Way You Make Me Feel).

I really get pulled in strongly around God Given, where the sound begins to portentously ramp up. The Great Destroyer has become my favorite track, it feels like the apex of the album both story-wise and musically. The melody energetically zig-zags between unresolved and uncharacteristically upbeat sequences, sharply coalescing with an unexpected and mind-hammering percussive assault.

Another Version of the Truth lyriclessly describes a hauntingly beautiful aftermath, and like all the other tracks is enhanced when framed in respect to the album's overarching narrative. The final two tracks had strangely interjected feel-good choruses, sunbeams percolating out of an ashen cloudcover. Time slowly begins again with somber closure - Reznor seals off the album with his skillful and emotionally piercing blend of piano and synth, unveiling the zeroth year.

Azymn said...

By the way, sweet pic. A truly majestic disembodiment of the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Chaucer Arafat said...

Dan said: (though every time Capital G comes on I expect Michael Jackson to jump in and bust out The Way You Make Me Feel).

Uncanny! Exactly! Last night I was driving home in a thunderstorm listening to Capital G, and right as the song came on, I had visions of Michael and Bubbles entering a giant mouth on a rocketship. I began singing the chorus (because sadly, part of my brain is partitioned for Michael Jackson's latter works), and then here is Danny Boy, making the same connection. It really is too spot-on.

And I must say, as well, that my appreciation has broadened for the album. Highlights for me are also the Great Destroyer, which reminds me of an 8-bit wonder that isopraxis shared with me long ago (click here to checks it, yo).

Another Version of the Truth is a shining spot for me, much like A Warm Place was in the Downward Spiral. The Greater Good is fantastic. (I won't qualify or describe, just state simple preference). I revel in all of the Atari squelch, bit-crushed goodness.

And let me say this about T Rez: he knows how to close out an album. Look at a few final tracks from albums: Zero Sum, Right Where It Belongs, Hurt, Suck..I would buy NIN albums for the coda alone.

And Cap'n, regretably, I am down for a Denny's run whenever you say it, being, myself, a moron of the highest ilk.

isopraxis said...

Azymn, your eloquence in expression has provided la lengua libre where I had run out of words. These are my same thoughts. I raise a glass in kindred spiritus sanctus.

In hopes that all the Denny's trannys and goths someday find the fulfillment of the collective idée fixée, I would like to humbly suggest the single thing I love about this album:
Year Zero tells me that this is the front side of possibility, where I had almost given up the chance that Reznor could do something big and different again. He has the savvy, he has the melody, he has the essential dissonance. He doesn't cater to the God-Money types and after a 'greatest hits' or something, is free from his contract. Year Zero is good to me mostly because instead of becoming a coda to a pretty big career, I can forsee an even larger cataclysm coming from this generator of the sonics. I await the recapitulation.

And if any of you have incentive to get on the KDX (www.haxial.com) you can tap into the brainstem at 68.146.241.239 where there are muxics and a few prized motion pictures. Joe knows. I recommend the Bicycle Thieves. It'll break your little hearts.

"I'll never be a Bowie, I'll never be an Eno. . . I'll only ever be a Gary Neuman" - smog

Chaucer Arafat said...

huzzah..i twill be dipping this fair eve, most likely. godspeed jonny.

As usual, I have jabbered my arse off on a subject, saying far too much and too ineloquently, but i want to get in a parthian shot on the concept of NIN albums and cohesiveness. One thing I have long admired about Trent is the symbiotic song structure he employs. I know that we have noted the thematic linchpins on this album (and also, on others..I feel The Downward Spiral is just a cohesive as Year Zero), but something I have always loved is Reznors use of a repetitive strain that emerges often throughout an album. Much like a classical composer will, throughout a cycle, place a recurring series of notes to sonically bind the piece, Reznor incorporates and reincorporates a common series of notes, a common musical phrase, throughout the album. Remember Downward Spiral's recurring note sequence? It was, fittingly, a descending minor scale (major to minor?), usually played out in a bitcrushed and low-pass synth (a sound somewhat like the intro to Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes"). In the same way, Reznor has incorporated a repeating strain into Year Zero, and that, more than anything, elevates my respect. I mean, lyrically speaking, it seems more attainble to give the songs a binding lyrical gloss, but linking them musically without making them too alike is laudable crafstmanship.

i am done. really. all apologies.

Azymn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Azymn said...

Amen Joseph. I second and third your thoughts on Reznor's work: a splendid weave of bit-crushing, codas, and strain repetition. It's hard to stop talking about something that's just so good. You've found a superb parallel in noting the similarities between his thematic music-building and the classical composers of yore (which I also love). You've gotten me interested to revisit The Downward Spiral as a contiguous piece. My collection of hand-picked singles have been injected into playlists for so long that I don't think I've listened straight through a NIN album (Year Zero excepted) for years.
And Joe - nice to jointly ride the Michael Jackson wavelength on Capital G.

isopraxis: Well said. It does feel like Year Zero is a catalyst for greater things, and it's augmented my perpetual anticipation of all things NIN. It's applaudable that Reznor can produce this extrospectively engineered sound that still somehow remains unbound and unpressured by public exposure or corporate manipulation. It's a beautiful thing.
btw - thanks for Bicycle Thief (snagged it last night - that KDX is a fine tool).

It's always fine to find like minds.