Classic Album Review :: Nine Inch Nails — The Fragile

This album sits comfortably in my top five. It is two discs of oppressive perfection. It somehow retains the depressive anecdotes of all things in the darker side of the world without sounding like it was written by a 14-year-old who got dumped.

I think my favourite part is how it jumps from mood to mood. It starts with the hellish “Somewhat Damaged” where Trent Reznor reminds us how it is possible to be destroyed and still have teeth to bite, then transfers to “The Day The World Went Away” where he cries about how everything is broken and horrible. I know that, on paper, it doesn’t sound like the dichotomy I praised the album for is apparent, but it goes from machine-based rhythm to having no precussion in the traditional sense. Track two relies on the hits of the bass string to relay the points drums would in most other songs. It keeps the song incredibly heavy, but makes it more so on an emotional level as opposed to instrumental.

The album keeps going back and forth on these two kinds of songs. They are either peaceful/almost classical; with precussion taking a back seat. Or they are very mechanical and abbrasive.

Two songs stick out from the fray. “Just Like You Imagined” builds and builds using the most intense drums in a loop. It remains organic feeling, but creates a tension that can only be found elsewhere accompanied by some sort of visual. Somehow, this song is as intense as a movie.

The other outlier is my personal favourite in the compelation: “La Mer” is one of the most beautifully composed pieces ever. Or, at least, I think it is. It is just a simple piano line that slowly gets more complicated as time moves on. The drums kick in shortly after two lines are recited in French. I have refused to translate it in all my years being in love with this song for fear of it ruining my illusion.

The best part: that’s all disk one. Disk two is much more angry. The closest it gets to being uplifting (or, as uplifting as Nine Inch Nails can be) is the song “Into the Void” where the lyrical content is just as happy as the name of the song. At least it has a danceable beat?

This album is very hard to find a track to best encapsulate the entire collection. I would direct attention to La Mer or Just Like You Imagined, but those songs stand out BECAUSE they are so different from everything else. So, I think I will put the song “I’m Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally” because OF COURSE I WOULD.

Seriously, this has been the hardest album to write about. Two reasons; I love every second of it, and it contains so many brilliant examples of what someone can do with the art of music. I beg that you look into this album yourself. Even if you don’t care for the song I singled out, there is something you will love somewhere on this album.

Classic Album Review :: Stabbing Westward — Darkest Days

I might be wrong: I think everyone forgot about this album. I find it strange because this album is like a strange radio-friendly version of early Nine Inch Nails mixed with Bush X. It is both accessible and hard-hitting. I do not have it in my pantheon of constant rotation, but it is a very welcome addition to my library.

The album opens with a haunting soundscape, very mechanical and broken. The bass then kicks in driving a simple 4/4 riff while bells chime overtop. It is incredibly haunting, even if it is simple in execution.

The coolest part for me is that the vocalist starts by singing in almost a whisper, only to crecedo when the music does. And how it does! The opening track is in my top 10 opening tracks for demonstraiting the full capability for a band. Nothing is very from a skill perspective, but it is very impactful and hard-hitting.

One of the last lines of the first track (everything I touch I break) gets repeated over and over in the second track. Not in an “I’m 13 and know everything” kind of way, but more that dark and brooding way that Deftones does — point out the horrible in people and exploit it. The kind of angst that never really comes off as whining, but more like that expression of a soul done by someone who has actually seen some shit. The kind of writing that we all wished we were capable of in high school, tried, but came off as spoiled children instead of creating the portrait that we were trying to express.

Have I mentioned that the late nineties, in particular ’97 through 98, is my favourite moment in music? I do not know what was going on in society, but everything was perfect. From Beautiful Midnight by Mathew Good Band to Rabbit In Your Headlights by UNKLE came out right around the release of this fantastic album. I have gushed about the atmosphere of the former, and I plan on writing something on the latter in a bit, but that year is peppered with genre-defining moments of all forms.

Anyway, I have gushed enough. I know that I did not go further into specific instrumentation, as I normally do. This album is better defined through the overall feel, not to say the individual parts do not matter. For a proper breakdown of the instruments, all I can say is nothing special happens and that actually makes it better. Give it a listen. You’ll know what I mean.

Another Top 10

I awoke this morning with lyrics in my head. I assume that is not strange for the masses, but I am a drummer: I usually do not remember lyrics because I am distracted by the music. I had this urge to highlight songs that actually mean something to me, so here are the top 10. I know that I have done something like this before, but I am going to point out the songs that mean something to me, not the albums. This list contains tracks from albums that would never touch a top ten, and there are one or two that I only listen to the album for that song.

I reiterate: I am a drummer. A couple of these songs are just on this list because the drums are so fucking cool. In the interest of transparency, I will point that out when it comes to fruition.

Animals as Leaders- CAFO
Let’s start with one where the drums sold me on the very premiss. CAFO is easily one of those complicated songs I have ever heard. I think why I put this on my top ten as opposed to something from Godspeed You! Black Emperor is because it remains one of my favourite memories. I saw this back open for BTBM a few years ago. They were playing a flawless set, then they got to this song. The drummer added just ONE snare hit before a fairly easy part (compared to the rest of the song, anyway), and the guitar players got SO lost. It was just so fantastic to see that even Gods can fuck something up.

Samsaris- Góða Tungl
No, I cannot pronounce this title to save my life. I can, however, proudly put it in my top list. This song is absolutely beautiful. There is something incredibly haunting about the clarinet in contrast with the vocals. This song speaks to me on every level, though I have no clue what they are saying.
I refuse to look up a translation. I am afraid of hating what they are actually saying.

Blood Brothers- Love Rhymes With Hideous Car Wreck
A rather bleak way of describing eternal love and blind devotion, I first heard this song around a time when I thought I was in love with a girl. In hindsight, she was horrible. I know she does not read this blog (because we hate each other now) but, this song is for you.
Love love love love love love love. (rhymes with pity now)

Kevin Drew- TBTF
There was a time I almost got those four letters tattooed on my person: TBTF (to beautiful to fuck) is a story about love. Innocent love. A desperate person holding onto the relationship they have with a friend who is attractive.
ALTERNATE MEANING:
Someone who is rejecting someone they should be interested in, but they cannot justify it.
To be honest, I have no fucking idea what this song is about. I just know that I love it and relate far too much to it. Because I am oblivious to what it is actually about, I use it to rationalize uncomfortable situations I found myself in with friends.

The Dresden Dolls- Girl Anachronism
Piano and drums? Yes, please! Is it to bold to ask for sarcastic and self deprecation on the side? No? Perfect.
I play. This whole album is amazing, but I think that it is perfectly summed up by this track. Fast. Angry. Dynamic.

Incubus- A Crow Left Of the Murder
Puns in the name and probably the coolest guitar riff ever written by a band, it is easy for me to talk about how much I love this song. The more interesting way to do it is to leave the link up top and see how many of you listen to it.

Placebo- Without You I’m Nothing
Think Pink Floyd, but modern. I almost put the version with David Bowie on this list, but the original will do beautifully.

Nine Inch Nails- La Mer
I fucking love this song. Soothing, beautiful, haunting. The trifecta of amazing. I actually refuse to look up the translation for this song for fear of ruining the feel of it.

Poison the Well- The Realist
Does this song demonstrate everything I love about this band? No. It does the opposite. This song contains the most beautiful vocal melody I think I have ever heard and I just need to share it with everyone I meet. Listen. Enjoy.

Sufjan Stevens- I Want To Be Well
This was the song that actually inspired me to make this list. I fell in love with this song back when the album came out in 2010. I was working in a record store and was trying desperately to be the cool-indi-music-guy (and failing very hard at it). I had gotten into Sufjan about a year earlier from the Illinoise album, and I thought I got where he was coming from. The Age Of Adz proved to me that I should shut up and admit that I do not understand anything about music what-so-ever.
This song was my anthem. When I was cruising around at three in the morning, I would blare this song out my windows, singing along and staining my voice. I am positive that I disturbed a few sleeping people, but I was earnestly saying those words in all their glory. “I want to be well.” If I only knew then that not five years later I could relate more those words than I did at the time. If I only focused on what I had and not what I was loosing. Maybe, just maybe, things all could have been amazing.

I digress. Do yourself a favour and PLEASE listen to these songs. Especially the last one, it holds a place in my life that only I know of.

To state again: these are just 10 that remind me to listen to the whole album again. They are in no way my top favourite albums, and not even the top recommendations I could make. They are just some great songs that I find myself thinking about a lot.