Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Am I Missing Something?

So, when the crushingly awful With Teeth came out, I got sick of hearing the "return to form" and "the best since The Downward Spiral" talk. The album was a horrible stab at trying to be relevant for the new batch of incoming, morose college freshmen.

What pissed me off most was most critics tossed away The Fragile. Not only was it a great album, a good argument can be made that it's Nine Inch Nails' best album and - front to back - probably the best double-CD album released by a major rock artist in the past 20 years (exceptions to Jack Logan's Bulk, Tom Waits' Orphans and The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs). I remember my first full introduction to the album: it was at Pride Kansas City of all places in 2000. I quickly grew bored with the scene and the bad music and I opted to drive back to Lincoln a day early in my then-new/used Toyota Camry. I thought the drive to Lincoln from Kansas City was the perfect chance to a) break in the stereo and b) listen to The Fragile from front-to-back. Until then, I listened to the album in bits and pieces, but that was my first opportunity to fully digest the album in its entirety. With full volume, it absolutely floored me.

When I streamed Year Zero, I was immediately disappointed. It could have been I was listening to it at work, but none of the tracks, with the exception of the last track, evoked any reaction. With a lack of hooks and a lack of incisive lyrics, what's left? (see for yourself at When the reviews came back, I was thinking critics were going to savage NIN for two reasons:
a. the album was mediocre
b. he's an aging Gen-Xer - and critics love to attack aging scenesters (hell, Bright Eyes is already getting some press for his 'aging' status at the ripe age of 27).

I was ready for a nice ol' 1.5 rating from Pitchfork.
Much to my surprise, Pitchfork gave it a 6.7 - a huge leap above Bright Eyes' latest (6.0) and just a notch below the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Show Your Bones.
Then Rolling Stone gave it a four-star rating (not too surprising)
Then the show Sound Opinions raved about the album, saying it will be revisited many years down the road and new discoveries will be mined.
Then a general consensus of critics gave Year Zero a favorable rating at MetaCritic.

I'm still scratching my head at this. Personally, I think the critics are jumping the gun on this album and time won't be kind to this album. I remember how people initially said Weezer's Pinkerton was a stinker and now it's a classic and that U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind was a classic when it came out - and time hasn't been kind to that album. So - who knows.
But I've given this album three listens - and I'm still perplexed why this is rated above The Fragile (true, when The Fragile came out, it received raves, winning album of the year honors in Spin).

I guess one of the things that bugs me most about the album (since the music can't really bug me since it didn't leave an impression) is its generic dystopian premise. A few years into the future. We're a police state. Iraq is still going on. *Yawn*
It's sort of like going from watching a truly moving and utterly plausible dystopian film (Children of Men) and then seeing something like the cartoony-distopianism of a film like Ray Liota's No Escape or the Stallone/Snipes film ...oh, you know - the one about the cop that's frozen and then thawed out in a totally PC world to nab Snipes' character...

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Blogger Mykolas said...

Fragile was better, indeed. But this one is better then the rest. It is urgent and witty and stuff and musically - it grows after each listen (i had like 10 already and got exitedmore and more - the last album like that was er.. Fragile and probably latest Tool. So maybe give it a few listens. As for the story - it is not THAT bad. If you just mind the lyrics - it is disgusting. But after viewing some ARG sites it becomesmuch more understandable, you k now- something like these elvish songs which the Tolkien books are full of. And some sites are really very food.

8:07 AM  
Blogger TransformerGeek said...

Thanks for the comments - I'll give it a few more listens. And yeah, Tool's last album was a major disappointment - but who knows, it may be an album that will grow on listeners in a few years.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Howard Davis said...

I can honestly say that I have never liked Nine Inch Nails. I've seen the band live three times, and have heard most of the music. It just does nothing for me.

2:40 PM  

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