Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why I don’t like (Trent Reznor’s) How to Destroy Angels (so far)

Having come of age in the '90s I can't help but be a Nine Inch Nails fan to a degree. Everything before and including The Downward Spiral is genius. Everything after is only mediocre, bordering on washed-up, sometimes to the point of embarrassment, with the exception of The Slip which was a brilliant return to form that brought NIN to a close on a high note.

Take a poll and 99% of the civilized world will say that Pretty Hate Machine is their favorite NIN album. It's a good one, but I can't really agree. Regardless, Pretty Hate Machine is the one that most folks will admit to still owning and even loving. So be it. I was 15 years old when that record tape came out and I was definitely feeling Trent's angst. What made it such an amazing album was that he channeled all of his sexual anxieties into the catchiest, darkest industrial dance pop songs that the world had ever witnessed, and with unapologetic gusto. Skinny Puppy, Front 242, RevCo et. al. were good, but Trent had the hooks.

As a teenager, the appeal of Pretty Hate Machine was simple: this guy is really screwed up in the head over a woman, and it resulted in an album that was savage, primal -- despite its futuristic nature, and it was totally confrontational. The only way out is through, and that's why people still hold on to it.

There is nothing dangerous, or even remotely compelling about "A Drowning," the first song to go public from Trent's new group, "How To Destroy Angels." The bottom line is this: Mr. Self-Destruct is now married to a beautiful woman and she's singing along to his jams. Whaaat?!?! I'm all for living happily ever after and all; and the music is alright, but when placed alongside the lovely female vocals the whole thing becomes a goth cliche. I know... It's only one song, but first impressions count, right?

And what's up with that name, anyway? Kids these days may not know Coil, but I certainly do. I heard Coil's album, How To Destroy Angels not long after I heard Nine Inch Nails for the first time and it was a totally horrific and awesome listening experience that left me scarred. As a teenager stumbling on to How To Destroy Angels was like accidentally discovering a portal to hell or some other nightmarish dimension were I had no business hanging around. It evoked fear and curiosity, and it revealed wholly new dimensions for what drone, noise and industrial music can be. Here it's just girlie and sentimental, hardly a fitting tribute to the masters.