Tag Archives: NIN

The Wretched

I think there’s something special about double albums. I have to admit I find myself drawn towards them, usually for reasons I don’t quite understand.

Pound for pound, most double albums have counterpart single albums that are objectively better, start to finish. The White Album vs Sgt. Pepper. The Dark Side Of The Moon vs The Wall (or Ummagumma which is an exception to itself). The Downward Spiral vs The Fragile. Appetite For Destruction vs Use Your Illusion. The single album in all these cases are critically genius. The double albums on the other hand (with the arguable exception of The Wall, and with the caveat that the White Album is critically aclaimed despite it’s randomness) are generally considered good, but hodge podge, and lacking something.

I suppose there’s a consistent reason for this. It’s quite difficult to think of twice as much content and keep it of high quality. It’s a result of the creative process. I’m definitely not the first to observe that creativity, more often than not, consists of creating reams of bullshit and selecting the diamonds amongst the turds. Presumably as a musical artist, there is only so big a pile of dung you can build in an economically feasible time, and then you need to select the best from that.

It might come as some surprise to my friends that I use this process myself. It’s not entirely true that I have the most stunningly attractive son in the world (although that IS true). Rather, for every photogenic picture I put on Facebook, there are ten others that are, less than perfection.

 

shakespear
A baby smacking themself in the head, or a gifted child reciting Shakespeare?

 

A friend of mine has a theory on art. As best as I can describe it in a single sentence: the critical aspect of art is not in the creation, but rather in the selection. By way of explanation, photographers, rather than being the quasiartists that people often brand them as, are in fact the purest form of artist.

I don’t necessarily agree with his hypothesis one hundred percent, but I do think there is some truth to it. Rather than beauty being in the eye of the beholder, it might be more accurate to say, beauty is in the eye of the SELECTOR.

Back to the double albums, I ask myself what draws me to those things. These big inelegant monstrosities. It occurred to me, as I “rewound” my phone to listen to NIN’s The Wretched for the third time in a row, that in fact I focus in on parts of those albums. It’s like a collage that a brain can be thrown against to draw out the salient unconscious thoughts, much like a modern take on Rorschach ink blots.

On the flip side of random unconscious selection however, inherent to the process of making a double album, is the inverse artistic process. Rather than selection, it becomes a question of inclusion. Tracks that otherwise wouldn’t have made the cut, under an objective analysis, become the saviour of the time-filling gods.

Would Revolution 9 have made the cut, if it had been on Seargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Probably not. Even more so, the fluid unconscious thoughts that bring themselves to every decision we make, ARE subtly manipulated by extant circumstances. Even if R9 might have been considered on Seargant Pepper’s, the easy cop out of “there’s just no room” would have been all the ammo the superego would need to tip the scales in favour of extinction. Also are the songs of high art, like My Guitar Gently Weeps. Could it have existed on any other Beatles album, each with their highly focused musical theme? On the white album, however, it’s just another stroke of random genius, and more so, in my opinion, the most moving track on the album, and perhaps (one of) the most moving pieces of music in the electric guitar repertoire.

When I was younger, not even at the time understanding the significance, I would listen in darkness to Guns And Roses Coma over and over. Now it’s fairly obvious to me that the song reflected the disconnection and suffering that I found in my life at the time. Would such a self reflective song have found a home on the high energy rock anthem album, Appetite For Destruction?

It reflects a profound truth about all art, and the struggle within. We are our own worst critics. Self editing can be a destructive force. I found this, inversely, when one of my articles turned out to be quite popular. This piece, which to me was nonsense mind refuse, seemed to strike a chord and became my most read piece yet, fifty percent higher than my previous most read. I seriously had debated not posting that piece, which would have been a tragedy, both to my readers and my stats (not to mention my ego).

The truth is that people aren’t generally looking for perfection, even if most people would claim that ostensibly they are. As far as I can tell, what people really need, what they hunger for, is authenticity. They crave to know that the scabrous pile of retchinal vomit before them validates their own imperfect existence. There in lies the strength of the artist. The strength of the wretched.

Just a reflection
just a glimpse
just a little reminder
of all the what abouts
and all the might have
could have beens
another day
some other way
but not another reason to continue
and now you’re one of us
the wretched

Trent Reznor, The Wretched

With Teeth

Lately I’ve been filled with so much anxiety. It’s like I’ve been experiencing a mild anxiety attack almost all day every day. It’s been paralysing. There is a constant burning sensation in the frontal lobe of my brain, that gets stronger when I’m in a particularly anxious situation, like, you know, near any person whatsoever. I’m basically the inwardly directed version of Harry Potter.

I’m not entirely sure why this is happening. I have a few theories. For one I’ve been trying a new medication. It’s a tricyclic which is the original type of anti-depression medication. Usually any side effects subside with continued usage so I’ll wait and see. I’m not a big believer in medication for depression…at least not the type I suffer. I feel it often just hides away the real problems. That being said I thought I’d give it a try.

Another theory I have is that maybe it’s a passage I must go through in order to heal. Much anxiety is driven by phobia…and well a lot more is driven indirectly by phobia. In order to get from where you are to where you need to be you must overcome fears that other people perhaps can’t understand. Next time you consider telling a depressed person to just stop being sad, consider “just putting your hand in a jar of red back spiders”. Back to my current situation, it’s possible I’m just exposing myself to more anxiety inducing situations, therefore creating more of the anxiety that I’ve been experiencing. As the saying goes, “It always gets darkest before the dawn”.

It’s been getting harder to write. Lately it seems like a struggle just getting through each day. Something just recently though sparked a realisation that inspired me to write this article.

It was the most trivial of things that put me on this path of thought. I was moving bedrooms to have a little more space for when my son visits. Part way through cleaning up I discovered a stack of CDs that I had been meaning to download onto my phone. One of those was an old favourite of mine, With Teeth, by Nine Inch Nails.

I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails. I haven’t even listened to all of their (or his really) songs. Well I have written a song in tribute to “Closer” but that’s more incidental. It’s not that I don’t like NIN. In fact I consider Trent Reznor to be one of the greatest musical and lyrical geniuses of our time. It’s just that for whatever reasons his works never journeyed much through my headspace. I only even initially became interested in With Teeth because a friend had shared it on the network at work (many years ago). I did like it, so much so that I purchased a copy and listened to it on repeat. That’s a thing I do.

Completely unrelated but earlier this year I listened to almost nothing but Journey Of The Sorcerer by The Eagles on repeat for about two months. Is that a normal thing? I don’t know. Maybe it’s related to growing up without much money I had to listen to the one thing over and over. Perhaps that’s related to what people call “thinking too much”. When you only have one record you have a lot of time to consider the meaning of said music.

“What if everything around you
Isn’t quite as it seems?
What if all the world you think you know
Is an elaborate dream?
And if you look at your reflection
Is it all you want it to be?
What if you could look right through the cracks?
Would you find yourself
Find yourself afraid to see?” Trent Reznor, Right Where It Belongs

With Teeth holds an especially important place in my mind. It was this album, or to be more specific track thirteen “Right Where It Belongs”, that defined a moment that led me down my current path. I had earlier that year broken up with my then fiancĂ©. I was in a total funk, not depression per se, it was more of a resigned zombification. If you’d asked I would have said I was like an old man. And as I was listening to this song for like the fortieth time, in my bathroom just having showered, to look at myself I saw a damaged person. The lyrics clicked with a long dormant part of my brain. For perhaps the first time in about twenty five years I felt a pulse.

I never really gave much more thought to the album after that. I did recover and for a while at least I felt confident and with a lot of hard work I turned my life around. Over the years a melancholy still remained but I was able to push it aside. At some point I started writing electronic music and I do remember some people saying it sounded like NIN, although I just saw it as pure coincidence. Perhaps this whole time unconsciously my brain was working away on the memory of the music.

When I finally came to listen to the album again, it sounds peculiar, but it all made a sort of perfect sense. I’ve learnt a lot since those old days. In a way it was like I was reading a favourite book and realising all the answers had been right in front of me the whole time. Ever the skeptic I wanted to read what other people thought. Song meanings is a great site for reading how different people interpret lyrics. It’s not authoritative (nor should it be) but it’s a nice way to see how your thoughts match the zeitgeist.

“I pick things up
I am a collector
And things, well things, they tend to accumulate
I have this net
It drags behind me
It picks up feelings
For me to feed upon” Trent Reznor, The Collector

It was The Collector that first intrigued me: in a metaphorical way it seemed to mirror my anxiety so perfectly. Was it possible that’s exactly what this was about? I found it odd to see different interpretations that seemed wildly off the mark to mine. As I’m wont to do I started researching more. Wikipedia revealed the element of truth. Trent had in fact struggled with not only depression but something I know only too well, social anxiety disorder (also the most appropriate acronym ever: SAD…awww).

It may seem like I’m taking a small thing and making a big mountain out of it, but for me it’s an extremely big leap. I find it almost impossible to talk about this. Even now I feel I’m being judged and I fight the urge to delete this entire article. I’ve tried to tackle this topic about ten times by now.

But at least now I feel like someone strong and respected shares my same fears I feel a little more able to talk about it.

Many people in the past have commented that they feel I’m dragging a huge weight. I couldn’t have put it more succinctly then the lyrics above. Every social interaction I have gets put into the web of my collected memories. Each interaction becomes more anxious as I’m weighing it against a long trail of memories. There are even things that happened over twenty five years ago that I still stress about.

“I tried to send myself through — tried to get to the other side
I had to patch up the cracks and the holes that I have to hide
found a little bit of time even made it work okay
just long enough to make it really hurt
when they figured me out and it all just rotted away” You Know What You Are

This is pretty much every relationship I ever had. For me at least, social interaction becomes an overbearing demand. I have a persona that’s carefully controlled that I present to the world. It hides the real me long enough for people to think I’m an ok guy…though, that’s where the connection begins and ends.

Every word I write is carefully chosen. I think that’s why people who respond to these kind of artists have such polarised responses. There are those who say “you’re reading too much into it”, and then there are the others for whom, as Dexter Morgan says, a monster can always recognise another monster. Or was that Monkey? I’m always getting those two confused.

I guess you could say that I write the articles but the super ego is my editor. Is that a universal truth? I think it’s easy for people to identify with these kind of ideas. That’s something about anxiety, it spawns from a natural behaviour…just in my case it’s out of control.

“I think I used to have a voice
Now I never make a sound
I just do what I’ve been told
I really don’t want them to come around” Every Day Is Exactly The Same

I also have an intense fear of speaking. In my mind I assume that I will be punished for speaking my thoughts. It’s extremely difficult just getting through each day. During the worse times I just put on headphones and keep my head down.

“I’m still inside here
A little bit comes bleeding through
I wish this could have been any other way
But I just don’t know, I don’t know what else I can do” Every Day Is Exactly The Same

It’s reached the point where the things I think just can’t come directly out. I have to speak through symbols and analogies. I assume to other people it sounds like crazy talk. In truth it’s a combination of deep thought, deflection and insanity. Think of it like a cryptic crossword and if you solve the puzzle you get to see me run away.

“I can feel their eyes are watching
In case I lose myself again
Sometimes I think I’m happy here
Sometimes, yet I still pretend” Every Day Is Exactly The Same

Oh yeah, I also feel like I live in some kind of Orwellian nightmare. Or maybe like Pink Floyd’s The Wall. You know that scene where all the people become walking hammers? That’s my life. Except maybe instead of hammers I picture people as giant walking hands getting ready to judge and attack. That will have to be another article.

I don’t really have a point here. If you’re looking for some kind of answers you’ve come to the wrong place. This is more like a maze. Tread too deep and you’ll be lost for a long time. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

See you on the other side.

“just how deep do you believe?
will you bite the hand that feeds?
will you chew until it bleeds?
can you get up off you knees?
are you brave enough to see?
do you want to change it?” The Hand That Feeds

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