Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
Nine Inch Nails on new album Bad Witch has committed the biggest sin in popular music today. They’re trying something new.
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I know, right? How fucking dare they. Nostalgia and “retromania” have hit such ludicrous heights, we’re now into describing this current nu-metal revival as nu-nu-metal, for fucks sake. You want another Closer? Fuck you. How about a return to the abrasive sound of With Teeth? Go fuck yourself, Trent Reznor says, with fuzzy static rock n’ roll opener Shit Mirror.
Appearing last year in Twin Peaks – The Return at the Bang Bang bar, oozing cool in leather and shades, I said (to myself) that a call from David Lynch is the only thing Reznor will drop everything for. Play The God Damned Part is to sound what The Return was for television; melodies rise to breach a scratched-up surface, littered with musique concrete, before settling back beneath a grimy murk. Your brain will twist itself into a pretzel trying to parse what’s going on. Don’t worry, I don’t think it’s supposed to. It’ll make you feel uncomfortable, almost existentially so.
Your brain will twist itself into a pretzel trying to parse what’s going on. Don’t worry, I don’t think it’s supposed to. It’ll make you feel uncomfortable, almost existentially so.
God Break Down The Door might be a massive pisstake of noise and free jazz artists, meandering sax notes scattering all over sub-bass wobbles. Reznor does his favourite Dave Gahan-in-Jesus-Christ-pose impression, imploring for, well, God to break down the door. The final two tracks are like a sound-only cinematic, cryptic and heaving yet terrorised by silences. I’m Not Of This World feels like experiencing horrors unknowable as you’re locked in a blood-smeared cell next door. Where as we rock fans expect a climax, we’re instead snatched away last second. Aural coitus interruptus. All we’re left with is tinpots marching behind ultra-grainy film.
Over and Out weaves distant chimes and hard beats through its onyx shell, pleading vocals from Reznor feeling like David Bowie is haunting the recording in some odd (but totally welcome) way. The musical blue balls are given welcome release as Reznor and Atticus Ross layer instrument upon instrument, note upon note, texture upon texture before exploding and settling into the black. Maybe it’s a callback to the end of Sgt. Pepper’s A Day In The Life. Maybe it represents the slow death of consciousness in the modern age. My money’s on that Reznor just likes to fuck with us. At least some things never change.
STANDOUT TRACKS: God Break Down The Door, Over and Out, Shit Mirror
STICK THIS NEXT TO: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (duh), later David Bowie, Einstürzende Neubauten