NINE INCH NAILS
Down The Spiral
ACCORDING TO Courtney Love, Trent Reznor
considers himself to be the biggest recording star since Elvis Presley. Such
arrogance is dangerous: Nine Inch Nails may have become a huge live band in America over the past year and with Natural Born Killers Trent has compiled the best film
soundtrack of the ‘90s, but that doesn‘t give the band a licence to produce two
dismal, tedious albums in as many years.
The Downward Spiral‘ was an ambitious project —
Trent talked about it as a concept album inspired by Pink Floyd‘s alienation
opus ‘The Wall‘ — but ultimately it was no more than a wayward industrial rock LP
which was so relentlessly intense bleak and unfocussed that it was virtually unpalatable.
Considering the futility of that, releasing a follow-up of remixes and
reinterpretations is even more pointless.
‘Further Down The Spiral’ is, despite its
title, marginally less harrowing than the original Rick Rubin takes ‘Piggy (Nothing
can Stop Me Now)‘ and destroys its pretensions as a ballad by giving it a
thunderous hardcore opening, while the Aphex Twin‘s instrumental version of ‘At
The Heart Of IT’ puts an ambient soundscape over menacing samples. Both of
these are at least variations on a theme. On the other hand, the three takes of
‘Mr Self Destruct‘ (two of which are remixed by JG Thirlwell, the third by —
indulgence ahoy — Nine Inch Nails) are brutal, dispassionate but most damningly
dull versions of a song so full of self-loathing that it makes you wonder whether
Trent has ever seen daylight.
So why do Nine Inch Nails exert such a hold
over teenage America? Because Trent knows how to project
a sinister personality to a nation where serial killers are primetime
celebrities: witness the recording of ‘The Downward Spiral‘ in the house where
the Manson Family murdered Sharon Tate, witness the videos full of decaying
animals and graphic scenes of human decapitation. He is an anti-hero, a ‘90s
goth whose S&M fetishwear, floured-up body and stage-diving transform his
stage shows into a disturbing, macabre reflection of the rotten core of the
Such clever manipulation of teen neuroses is eventually
bound to succeed over here an a massive scale, but ‘Further Down The Spiral‘
commits the ultimate sin: it makes evil seem tedious.