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Nine Inch Nails - Further Down the Spiral CD (album) cover


Nine Inch Nails


Crossover Prog

3.28 | 26 ratings

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3 stars Modern expressionism is a funny thing. In that subjective realm one man's art is another man's shart. In the visual field, for example, I find Pablo Picasso's paintings to be inexplicably intriguing while Jackson Pollock's stuff leaves me scratching my bean as to why it's so revered. Gotta chalk it up to the "different strokes for different folks" syndrome. In music it's even more pronounced. I can't tell you why Nine Inch Nails' abstract aural creations are able to stimulate certain parts of my psyche but they reliably do. I also understand why others would deem their music as noisy, confusing synthetic cacophony that has absolutely no redeeming qualities. Serene it's not. It's one of those mysteries that makes being alive a true adventure if you allow conundrums like that to invigorate your mind instead of confounding it. For whatever reason I find Trent Reznor's contributions to be highly progressive as he constantly challenges the threshold of what I can tolerate and, at the same time, delivers moments of emotional clarity that I can't get anywhere else. I'm not saying that everything this band produces is a masterpiece. Far from it. Some of it disgusts me and some of it I have to write off as the crazed rantings of a drug addicted alcoholic who (at the time) had no inner compass but often there will be a song or a passage within a track that exquisitely transcends the mundane and the ordinary. That's when NIN scratches what's itching in me and I can only utter, "Wow." I also hold great admiration for Trent's adventurous spirit that encourages him to not only share every note of his music with the world fearlessly but to invite other artists to deconstruct and tinker with his tunes at will. That's why the discography of NIN contains so many singles and remixes. I've personally found that by investigating those various releases I gain a better understanding and appreciation for what their "official" studio albums contain. "The Downward Spiral" is a landmark recording. "Further Down the Spiral" turns it on its head to see what will fall out.

The opener, "Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)," will give the recipient a pretty good idea of what they've gotten themselves into right off the bat. To be sure, guest mixer Rick Rubin's slant on this song is radical. After a typically strange intro a furious chorus (aided by Dave Navarro's tortured guitar) intrudes and then alternates with slightly jazzy verse segments until your brain is tempted to bolt for safety through the nearest door. There are three cuts that are derived from a jarring tune on "Downward Spiral" ("Mr. Self Destruct") and "The Act of Self Destruction, Part 1" is the initial installment of the trilogy. It features an engaging meld of a repeating down beat surrounded by industrial intrusions, whispers and the occasional fingernails-on-the-blackboard ear squinchers that will test your mettle. In other words, it ain't for the timid. "Self Destruction, Part 2" is built on a stronger, more direct drum kit pattern while a supercharged, brittle electric guitar gives it a razor sharp edge. The whole piece emotes a sense of extreme urgency that is intimidating. "The Downward Spiral (The Bottom)" is next, a number that presents an ethereal, discombobulating soundscape at the beginning before a flowing, liquid rhythm ensues that carries you atop a toxic current as you glide through threatening scenery. It's quite a surreal experience. "Hurt (Quiet)" follows and it's a noticeably different version from the original but not so much that it loses its galvanizing atmosphere that engulfs me like a room full of soft cotton. No matter what shape it takes, this song is incredible and oddly soothing.

"Eraser (Denial; Realization)" immediately erects a splintery wall of tension but, unfortunately, it never goes anywhere interesting. It does have a groove, though, so it's good for wild living room dancing in the dark, I suppose. Aphex Twin composed "At the Heart of It All," a hypnotic, ominous collage of pulsating sounds parading in front of a two-note symphonic drone. It's another curious track that's hard to describe because it's so foreign to what I'm used to hearing. "Eraser (Polite)" sports a much more subdued aura in that it's just Reznor's vocal over what sounds like a pump organ. At only 1:15 in duration, it's a very brief but nonetheless disturbing excursion into wicked thoughts and aspirations. "Self Destruction, Final" offers up a soft intro before the familiar, overbearing theme barges in only to dissolve into disarray momentarily and then reassemble to harass your senses mercilessly. It's kind of a casserole of elements from the other two renditions thickly layered to emit the maximum amount of intensity. "The Beauty of Being Numb" is a hybrid. The first section, manufactured by NIN, is a knockabout mash of noises and unintelligible voices while the second, contributed by Aphex Twin, is a muted jazz movement accompanied by what sounds like electronic hog snorts and then what I can only describe as a female's dreamy moans as she pleasures a man. It's definitely the weirdest thing on the disc. "Erased, Over, Out" is sort of a continuation of the sensual moaning samples that ended the previous tune joined by Trent's angst-sated screams reverberating in the background.

Now, if you think that I've just critiqued a CD that's so far out there that no one in their right mind would go near it, think again. "Further Down the Spiral" was released in June of 1995 and proceeded to climb the charts to the #23 position so obviously it filled a need. Selling over 50,000 copies, it went on to become one of the most successful remix albums of all time so it's somewhat comforting to know that there are a host of other people out there like me who find Nine Inch Nails irrepressibly magnetic and necessary. Sometimes you just gotta let go of your inhibitions and let a little madness seep in. For some reason it has the uncanny ability to heal what ails ya. If you're brave enough, dive in. 3.4 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |


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