New to the Library: Not the Actual Events EP-Nine Inch Nails

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/9c/Not_the_Actual_Events.jpgBefore I begin to dig into this EP, I would first like to shout out a really great review done on big bad Pfork on The Fragile.

Onwards. I am enjoying the heck out of this record. It is certainly not a groundbreaking NIN album, but if you’ve got a good speaker system or some juicy headphones, treat yourself to the sonic delights of perfectly produced music. Reznor is really good at splitting channels in songs, which doesn’t come to it’s full potential until the listener pops on a headseat and is trapped in an aural teeter-totter. (Side note, this is also a way to hear some lyrics better. On many tracks the wall-of-sound is hard-panned to one side and then the lyrics come out crisp and clear on the other.)

I would also like to take a moment to address some oddities I found on the interwebs before I began: One of his grimiest records since Downward Spiral (wuh-hut??); blasé reviews on The Slip & Hesitation Marks (is. you. doin??); no one ever talking about Ghosts I-IV (bruh.) So for those in the back who weigh in when they feel like having an opinion on a record they half-assed listened to once: fuck all y’all. To me there are only two reasons to have these dumb ideas: you haven’t gotten over Downward Spiral and expect every album to be more of the same (ew) OR you hopped on the wagon because you thought With Teeth was awesome (double ew). The reason why Ghosts I-IV is so important to the catalog is that it concludes the content of the previous albums and ushers in the new era. Essentially, Year Zero is what With Teeth was supposed to be–the capstone to anger and desolation & in the same moment restored fans faith in Trent Reznor. So, everything that has been made since Ghosts I-IV is the new age of Nine Inch Nails. You will need to accept and enjoy complex electronic rhythms, exploration into new genres (world, jazz, funk), and letting your mind meditate in the atmospheric murk if you want to continue to appreciate their albums.

Now that the emotional vomit is out, let’s move on.

  • “Branches / Bones” really showcases the industrial-wall-of-sound that Reznor has been cultivating at least since The Fragile‘s “Starfuckers, Inc.”, if not much earlier. It’s sort of like screaming into a pillow before having a hard conversation and it works as a nice wake-the-fuck-up track.
  • “Dear World,” is so drum heavy it makes it hard to breath. When all the sounds are combined there is no pause, no rest. So when it breaks out into thinner layers it feels like a relief. And right when it stops and you can hear yourself think for a second, in pumps the 2-channel voice layers. It’s very The Slip and very tasty.
  • “She Gone Away” is so rad. I love nothing more than the gravelly bottom of Reznor’s range, yum yum yum. On a more serious note, both the music and vocal arrangements are very reminiscent of Puscifer songs; and I can’t help but wonder if this is what the never-materialized Reznor-Maynard album would have sounded like. The bassline is basic and mesmerizing. If Not the Actual Events is some sort of nostalgia tour then the drum and bass interplay on this track definitely reeks of The Fragile‘s “I’m Looking Forward to Joining You, Finally.”
  • The chanty/yelly vocal parts on “The Idea of You,” oddly enough, remind me a lot of Faith No More. And if Trent whispering in the background ala “Closer” and “I Do Not Want This” is your heaven, then welcome to your next favorite track. AND, for those of you who have been bellyaching about “too much electronic,” here is your bleedin’ rock track.
  • It’s very possible that “Burning Bright (Field on Fire)” is my favorite song of the bunch. The opening stanza “I’m goin’ back/ Of course I am/ As if I ever had a choice/ Back to what I always knew I was/ On the inside/ Back to what I really am” feels like a lyrical home. And on a much more personal note, is really resonating with my ever closer return-of-Saturn. The music is grimey, crunchy and electric. There are also moments where the bass guitar and bass drum drop at the same moment and give that endlessly deep sound I most often associate with the most soul ripping Korn drops (I know, I know, who makes Korn references–but. it. applies.) I always feel a little blah about rock artists imitating fascist rallies ala NIN, Manson, Pink Floyd, etc. Mostly because I have a deep concern about/experience with this being turned by some less critically-analyzing fans into these bands condoning Nazism, which as far as I can tell is the exact opposite of what the artists are doing. But in this case, it’s faint enough that I can kind of stop and enjoy the journey instead of being worried about Reznor acci-encouraging neo-Nazi assholes.

Overall this EP is good. It does have a lot of compositional overlap with previous albums, but it’s enjoyable, not a drag. It feels kinda like a B-sides collection. Who doesn’t love B-sides? My bigger hope is that…does that mean we’re gonna get another tour?? Because man, oh man, does Reznor put on amazing. fucking. shows. *sigh* I guess I’ll just have to cross my fingers, hold my breath, and wish upon a star.

4/5

 

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New to the Library: Not the Actual Events EP-Nine Inch Nails

Interpol “El Pintor”

As a fan, I just want to clear the air and say I am still not over Carlos Dengler leaving the group. And yes, I read his heartfelt op-ed on Pitchfork about how the forever-in-our-hearts David Bowie saved him from drugs & the Rock-n-Roll lifestyle…I. Am. Still. Upset.

Does this make El Pintor a bad album–of course not; would it have been better with him, definitely debatable. But Interpol has been heading in a ever so slightly different direction for a while now, and one that I frankly admire and find much more satisfying.  10-years-ago Interpol was very appropriate for 10-years-ago me and likewise, present day Interpol grooves much better with present day me.  I would argue that if they put out an Antics-esque album instead of El Pintor I would have been sorely disappointed–but yay, I don’t have to be!  So here we go…

I am really pleased that the classic Interpol tremolo is all over this album as with all the previous ones.  I am an absolute sucker for it and at this point its almost comforting to hear it still being worked into the fabric of their songs. I frankly don’t have a lot to say about the bass change-over, which is mostly unnoticeable (in the best sense). “Everything Is Wrong” has a particularly notable bass presence. I really enjoyed the contrast between the bass line and the wavering guitar before the first verse and in general felt that the bass for this song was really gelling with the album’s vibe. I did find it a little ironic that, given this track’s title, it had arguably the best bass effort on the album. “Tidal Wave” also had a nice pep in the bass area.

The whole album feels a bit like trying to desperately grasp at something that’s slipping through your fingers. “All the Rage Back Home” has a sort of building-up-to-middle-age anxiety vibe. “Anywhere”‘s summery, bright chords and “I could go anywhere” chant are oozing in nostalgic teen energy. “My Blue Supreme” is kind of forgettable, like having a dream that you’re really cool but completely forgetting that dream by mid-morning. “Breaker 1” feels like drunkenly floating through a party. “Ancient Ways”‘s little “fuck the ancient ways” jab has an adolescent punk resilience that feels a little forced. The bridge to “Twice As Hard” is syrupy like being too high and trying really hard to focus on something important.

On “Try It On” from Interpol, the opening line is “I need the sunlight to keep me above these moderations.” There are several tracks on El Pintor that come off as the musical equivalent of that sunlight. The little guitar licks in the second verse of “All the Rage Back Home” and the “heyayayay”‘s. The confident “rocker” solo intro in “Anywhere.” The funky call and response in “Same Town, New Story.” The beachy guitar vibrato and vocal harmonies in “The Depths,” which has arguably the most poignant, if not the best, lyrics on the album.

I have a lot of “I loves” on this album that don’t quite fit together neatly, so here’s a point-by-point:

  • “My Desire”: Swinging guitar melody. This song also has a musical embodiment of shaking your head back and forth–like listless indie headbanging. Ebb and flow of dynamics are wonderfully timed.
  • “Breaker 1”: A stark contrast in mood from “Everything Is Wrong.” Drum crescendos are beautifully placed and contrast nicely against the cymbal rides. Really enjoyed the melody and overlapping words at the end; very reminiscent of Latin American music, seen much more in Interpol, and is nice to see a shimmer of here.
  • “Tidal Wave”: Drums have a sort of tribal mood, which is very moving. Glissandi are an interesting mix-up from the normal bag of tricks. Minors at the end are a nice wrap up for the direction of the track, especially in conjunction with the “the tidal wave” repetitions and bleating guitar line. Reminds me a little of The Cure at the very end (in a good way), perhaps because it sounds a little synthy.
  • “Twice As Hard”: Quite possibly my fav track. Drum part reminds me of walking all sexy sultry across a room. *sigh*

This whole album is like laying in the sun drinking beer–or perhaps that’s just my desire–the album is like a longing for relaxation and “good life.” Overall, the lyrics are not particularly striking in the verses, but do have catchy hooks. Perhaps they gave too much soul in Interpol and this is what’s left–there’s no need to replay those ghosts. Before I close (although really I’m done reviewing here!), I would like to take a moment to give kudos to Sam Fogarino.  I spend a lot of time swooning over Paul and experiencing some crazy soul-catharsis from Carlos Dengler’s sweet bass licks, but Sam’s work on the drums adds such an indescribable texture to Interpol’s oeuvre. So, a big awe-inspired thank you.

I had some little “I wish these things had been different”s, but frankly I’m over it. I just killed my own magical Paul Banks fantasy by digging up his love life on the internets. (That’s what I get) …So the last couple days I’ve been rocking this silly make-believe that I’m won from my husband in a chess battle-of-hearts & happily ever after blah blah. ANYWAYS that’s over now–and that is wholly more disappointment than any little quips I had about this album. So Paul, if you’re reading this, take your fucking time machine back to 2008 and visit Sacramento, where a beautiful little 20 year old is slow-show dancing in her bra and a black mini to “Narc” and waiting for her perfect music man to touch her, oh tonight. Giggle.

 

 

Interpol “El Pintor”

Liars “Mess”

Listening to this album makes me feel cool. Like the way you (okay maybe just me) felt in high school tromping around the mall with your gang and harassing the employees. The idea that someday you’re going to grow up and wear chic black outfits, chain smoke, get drunk and go to amazing concerts–because obviously that’s the dream.  Giggle.

This album’s opener “Mask Maker” is a nice first kick. I love this gritty opening samples which remind me of saying random things into a sequencer and just having fun with it. And actually, this is basically the vibe of the whole song for me. The vocals that cut in about halfway through the track are very Death From Above 1979-esque in all the best ways.

“Vox Tuned D.E.D.” and “Darkslide” are saucy, nondescript, goth-club thumpers that are lovable all the same.

Not bad, but skippable tracks: “Can’t Hear Well,” “Boyzone,” & “Dress Walker.”

Probably my fav track at this point is “Pro Anti Anti.” A BIG part of this is Angus Andrew’s super deep bleating, laced over with delicate “ohhahhhs” and punctuated by rhythmic breath noises. Plus, the lyrics are super…broody.

“Mess On a Misson” just makes me giggle. The “uh-huhs” are fun, plus whenever I sing it my husband starts doing the “uh-huhs” from Devendra Banhart’s “Chinese Children” in some sort of live-mash-up. Plus whenever the crazed “A mess on a mission” line is going I keep imagining muppets running around waving their arms in a frenzy.

“Perpetual Village” is the track that I forget to love.  It’s like exploring an electric swamp or maybe doing some VNV Nation Tai-Chi. It’s a nice groove with good build up.

“Left Speaker Blown” is actually a pretty nice outro track. I’m not entirely sure it was meant that way, but to my mix-CD-master ears it’s a nice wrap up to the album. Delicate and has just enough bittersweet to make you drift of into some personal reverie and forget the album’s stopped.

“I’m No Gold” has such a crunchy vibe. As an aside, the video is weirdly hysterical and definitely worth watching a chunk of if you really need to waste some of your life on YouTube. I love the faux-breakdown into trill thing that’s happening a couple minutes into the track. Which really is just one example of what this whole album encompasses for me as a dance-goth-rock-whatever, this band is still doing an amazing job of balancing the predictable electronic loops with just enough surprise to keep your rocking your head and making to-cool-for-school pouting faces.

My soul was searching for a great dance album; the prayer was answered. Thanks dance gods.

Liars “Mess”