Friday, April 20, 2007

Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero

(photo by Rob Sheridan)

Had Trent Reznor been this productive back in the day, no way in hell would I have graduated from college and finished graduate studied. I don't know how the heck a student aged NINner could possibly go to classes with this much entertainment surrounding them. Two albums within a 3 year period. That's crazy. Let's not forget the barrage of concerts, the DVD and the freaking alternate reality game. If you've had your head in the sand for whatever reason, this good USA Today article can get you up to speed.

First and foremost, if you're a NIN fan, buy the fucking album, okay? This definitely sounds better than the audio stream and the album art is slick. My cellophane wrapper even has a sticker that says 16 noisy new songs. How cool is that?

Now, this is a hard post for me to write. As as I was walking back from work I kept fishing for words, reexamining how this album actually makes me feel and cross checking what my expectations were to begin with. I must say, as a big nail head myself, it's really hard to be objective at times when it comes to Trent Reznor and his music. You want everything to blow you away because for the most part it does and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. It's accepted knowledge that Reznor is one of the innovative musicians in the world, but the alternate reality game that supports marketing for Year Zero is pure genius. Entertaining. Yes. Creative. Yes. Intellectual. Yes. Incredibly well executed. Hell yeah.

He's one to give back to all over his fans as well. Take for instance the footage of the Art is Resistance meeting (turned surprise NIN concert) in LA up at one of the related Year Zero sites:

Year Zero isn't just about the new album, it's about the entire experience. Observing the interactivity and community forming around all of this is overwhelming and quite beautiful, actually. So, when I say the music on the album itself really takes a back seat to everything else NIN related this time around, I mean that in the nicest possible way. This isn't exactly a criticism, but it is to say that the album as a free standing entity is not only unimportant to me but that it is more vital for the music to play in the role of a supporting piece for Year Zero's alternate reality.

I missed out on a lot of the game as it was unfolding due to being off line for most of February and March, so I wasn't as caught up in the hype as I would have liked to. However, it did give me the unique opportunity to listen to the album somewhat objectively as an old fan. Each song in of itself stands quite well on its own featuring interesting sounds, textures and significant lyrics. Unfortunately, although the tracks fit together as a cohesive themed unit, I feel, dare I say it, some portions sound repetitive. There are chord progressions and melodic themes that tread too close to "sameness" compared to songs from earlier albums With_Teeth and The Fragile. With that said, I think a new listener would be impressed by general sound of the album: Trent's vox is powerful as ever and the effects and distortion are cool sounding. The song "In This Twilight" has exceptionally lovely words...

As a companion to the ARG surrounding Year Zero, this album is the perfect soundtrack. Unfortunately, I have to say, if we're talking about just the songs, the whole sum isn't necessarily better than its parts. Granted I'm comparing this again my usual standards for NIN...and they're astronomically high.

But does it really fucking matter? Hell No because the musical genius behind Nine Inch Nails completely blows all other artists out of the water.

Listen to (courtesy of

"Me I'm Not, Wretched I'm Not" (songmash by Shagg127)
"Survivalism Remix" (Megaton edit by Chris Rose)


Nine Inch Nails Official Website
Year Zero Mini Site
The NIN Hotline
Echoing the Sound
be a part of the resistance...
remix your own version of "Survivalism" (requires Garage Band)


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Anonymous dasMobius said...

I love Year Zero! I finally bought my copy today. I don't want to listen to anything else. It's pure genius. I get depressed sometimes when I face the fact that I could never come up with anything even 2% as cool as this concept.

Someone asked me what my favourite track off of Year Zero was and I said "I don't know, they're all so genius." They just laughed and probably thought I was kidding, but I was totally serious. I've probably listened to the whole album 20 times (streaming on the website) and I honestly never once thought about it in terms of "which song do I like the best?" I prefer to just listen to the whole thing from beginning to end. The album itself is just one long song to me.

PS: I laughed when I saw that you wrote "With_Teeth" by putting that symbol in for the space just like on the album!

Friday, April 20, 2007  
Anonymous thevitaminkid said...

As I mentioned, I got a copy last week from the library, and now I've heard it. I'm glad to be informed about what it is, and is not. I'm like that -- I don't really dig opera, but I will listen to some on occasion just for the sake of musical education.

So I can't speak about the album in the context of all the other websites and back story and etc. that surrounds the album. Just as an album, with music and words, it doesn't strike me any particular way. I guess I am more into jazz these days. & Today I grooved on some Swing Out Sister videos on YouTube. :-)

I don't mind listening to music that has a strong religious/political statement that is opposed to my own, otherwise I would loathe some of XTC's work. However, it occurs to me that if one is afraid of a coming oppressive religious empire, one should be more afraid of an Islamist empire than anything else. Yet, I don't think that was what Trent was driving at. ;-)

Friday, April 20, 2007  
Anonymous cchang said...

Shawn, you are allowed to post your gushy counter review to mine, you know. I mean, you have the power of being one of the contributors. :) I'm so used to typing With_Teeth and of course Meathead's variation Witha_Teetha.

TheVitaminKid, glad to hear your take on the album as a new listener. It's really hard to be objective when the music is practically part of your DNA from listening for so long. The repetition across some albums though, does stand out like a sore thumb for me, unfortunately.

Friday, April 20, 2007  
Anonymous dasMobius said...

Thanks, Cindy, but I think one review per album is good enough. Besides, my "gushy" review probably wouldn't be as interesting as your more analytical approach.

Sunday, April 22, 2007  
Anonymous dasMobius said...

OK... if someone held a gun up to my head and made me choose a favourite song from Year Zero, it would be "In This Twilight!"

Saturday, April 28, 2007  

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