Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Vinyl Vednesday 3/2/2011

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. This week’s edition celebrates Trent Reznor’s Oscar win for best soundtrack. Way to go T-Rez! E-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral (1994), With Teeth (2005), and Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D (2007), all on black (as your soul).

Place of Purchase: Spiral came from Hot Topic, while the others were bought at Repo Records in Philadelphia.

Thoughts: I sarcastically commented on Sunday that I hope Trent Reznor’s Oscar win for best soundtrack for Social Network gets old people to listen to Nine Inch Nails, but I also secretly hope that really happens. Whatever gets more people listening to The Downward Spiral, the best NIN release of the ’90s. I try not to double-up on vinyl and CD anymore, but with Nine Inch Nails combine anger, despair, heaviness, and dance beats in such an appealing blend. Spiral is probably the best starting point for NIN – It’s held up better technologically than Pretty Hate Machine and it’s easier to digest than The Fragile, and you get the two biggest NIN songs – “Closer” and “Hurt.” Somewhere between the two, you get a sense of Reznor’s songwriting.

Then again, With Teeth might be the better entry point. It’s the simplest of the NIN records, but that also makes it the most direct. It’s repetitively angry, but it also boasts some strong singles – “The Hand That Feeds,” “Only,” and “Every Day is Exactly the Same” are some of Reznor’s catchiest moments. It’s not the most vicious NIN collection, but I think the record gets a bad rep from older fans. Yeah, it’s an artistic step back from the sprawling Fragile, but it’s still NIN. Besides, Teeth was just a trial run before Reznor dropped Year Zero, which is actually the best NIN record.

Year Zero was a concept album about the end of the world. It’s vaguely political in an Orwellian sense, and it’s ideas spread so far that Reznor has even developed a mini-series about the stories contained on the record. It helps that the tunes are good, so good, in fact, that even the remixes shine. Anyone who’s heard Fixed can tell you that NIN has been remixed terribly over and over again. But starting with With Teeth, Reznor finally started hooking up with people who had a knack for knocking out dance beats. Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D has an obnoxious title, but it provides a ton of new ideas. Remixes from Saul Williams, Ladytron, and The Faint stand out, although Olof Dreijer’s take on “Me, I’m Not,” which builds a spacey new song out of samples, is the best. The biggest criticisms against NIN tend to be that Reznor has a limited vocabulary, the songs are always angry/sad, and that the beats get repetitive. I interpret these digs as, “Trent Reznor gets to the point, deals with universal themes, and adds hypnotic beats along the way.”

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