Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Nine Inch Nails' new album Year Zero comes out on April 17th. If you're like me, and list The Downward Spiral among the primary influences in your life, your enthusiasm and faith has eroded a bit with each subsequent release. I am, however an optimist, and (despite that disturbingly thick neck Trent has going on) everything I've read and heard about the new LP is very promising.

One of the things that made The Downward Spiral so good was the simple yet powerful narrative that tied the whole work together and spoke directly to every eighteen-year-old within signal range. The message was raw and pure, and the meticulous execution demanded a level of critical respect the industrial genre (or arguably the broader "alternative" genre as a whole) had not achieved before. It was a rock opera for the black clad Generation X, but not contrived or over-worked. The main problem with the two following LPs was that they spoke from the point of view of a frustrated multi-platinum rock star, and that obsessive production which worked so well on Spiral too often came off as self-referential and dull.

Year Zero was recorded in a mere three months time, and promises to be more compact and immediate than its predecessors. Spin magazine says it is "probably the most minimalist Nine Inch Nails has ever been. Conversely, Trent's getting outside of himself lyrically - it's a real state-of-the-union message wrapped in a sci-fi concept album about a totalitarian government in the not-too-distant future." Trent says, "Essentially, I wrote the soundtrack to a movie that doesn't exist." Set 15 to 20 years in the future, the narrative is a projection of what the world may be like if the current culture of fear and endless war continues to escalate. This is an idea everyone can identify with. The story is not limited to the recording however. Several websites have been created which - looking and reading like glitched out artifacts from the future - fill in blanks, tease and raise more questions.

We were tipped off by a friend in Boston that an unofficial MySpace page page was created last night, featuring one leaked track and a remix by little known Cincinnati band Common Man Down. According to Wikipedia, the track "My Violent Heart" was found on a USB drive in a bathroom at a NIN show in Lisbon yesterday. It's quite possible it was planted as part of an elaborate viral marketing campaign, which has so far included hidden messages and codes which direct eagle-eyed fans to URLs and phone numbers. I do love a well executed viral campaign, and better yet, the leaked song is awesome.

No comments: