13. Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
There’s quite a bit I could, and intend to say about this album, but i think I’ll save most of it for later. I really like this album… there are times when it would be in my top 5 or top 3. That wasn’t always the case. I first got into Nine Inch Nails back in High School. My friend Kenton had an album, and I heard one song from it, and thought it was kinda good. He let me borrow it, and I made a tape of it, and would listen to it occasionally. Eventually I went out and bought the Head Like a Hole single (it was the only album I could find), and then I found Broken in my basement (it was my brother, Jeff’s, but he wasn’t going to be needing it anymore, I decided). So I had 2 NIN albums, and 1 tape, and that was that. I listened to them occasionally, but not a ton. (We’re talking sophomore year of high school here.) My friend, Chris, had gotten The Downward Spiral… and I had heard Closer on the radio a number of times, and since I was a high school aged boy, I thought Closer was “rad”. So I borrowed The Downward Spiral, made a tape with Closer and Hurt on it, and gave it back. That was that. Time passes, I get dumped, and I go full tilt into “I hate my life and I want to die” mode, and get big time into music (I’ve told this tale a number of times already, so this should all be old news). I begin buying cds for all these tapes I’ve made over the years, and I go out and get The Downward Spiral. I bring it home, and since by now I love my other Nine Inch Nails albums, I figure this one will be even better. I already like Closer and Hurt, after all. So I toss it in, and listen through it… and it scared the hell out of me. It starts out fine and all, but as the album goes on, he starts to sound really freaky, and just sort of weird, like he’s going insane or something, and I remember just feeling creepy. So after listening through it once, It went in the shelf, and stayed there for a while.
Senior year of high school starts up, and in time I start to feel better about life, the universe, and everything [read: I began dating again]… then the saga of “Sarah” began. So about once every 2 to 3 months, I’d get pretty pissed off and depressed, and turn back to my “angry and pissed off” music. That means a healthy dose of Nine Inch Nails. The Downward Spiral got some play, but not nearly as much as others, because it just seemed too mad, and not enough sad for my tastes. The Sarah thing plays out for about 3 years, and I maintain a pretty regular routine of “happy music” then “sad music” taking turns in shifts, but The Downward Spiral continues to be a “oh yeah.. that had Hurt on it” kind of album for me. (At that point, I had kinda distanced myself from Closer, as it seemed to be a song that jackass “dudes” would tout as a celebration of their jackassy ways, and that pissed me off, cause jackasses are jackasses, and tend to ruin everything and everyone they come in contact with.)
I become good friends with Molly, whom I’ve mentioned before, and we started emailing quite a bit, and we’d go through song lyrics to try to figure out what the singer was trying to say (yeah.. When Molly suggested doing that I was instantly smitten, as I hadn’t met another person, let alone a good looking girl, who was into doing something like that). So in a search for good songs to look into, I turned to Nine Inch Nails. After giving Molly a Pearl Jam tape (after she game me the Pink Floyd tape), I suggested Nine Inch Nails. She gave them a listen, and made some comments about The Downward Spirals somewhat “frightening” nature, and I agreed. At that point it had been a fairly long time since I had listened to that album…and then the Fragile came out (we’re talking late ’99, I think), and I loved it (as I’ve already mentioned, so The Downward Spiral went back on the shelf.
Okay, so more time passes, and I’m Gospelcom. I needed music, and Nine Inch Nails was towards the top of the list. So I put all the albums I had on my machine, and put it on random…. and I was amazed at how many really good songs I didn’t recognize… and after a while, I decided to listen through each album in order, and The Downward Spiral just hit me as being really, really good, especially the music. And so it began.. I listened to it a ton, starting learning the words, starting digging into the lyrics, and thinking about what all was being said… and I grew to like the album more and more each time I heard it. A while later Andy introduced me to a number of remixes of songs, and some of them (e.g. Eraser [denial, realization]) were so amazingly good I could play them on repeat for an hour and not get sick of them.
Looking back on it now, I know I wasn’t really ready for an album like this when I was in high school. The themes are “adult” to say the least, and take it purely on the surface would leave you thinking things that I don’t think are so good. It’d be like watching “All in the Family” and thinking the writers were all advocating bigotry and racism. It also took a radical change of view on my part. Somewhere along the way, I learned that other people can be wrong, no matter how rich, famous, or eloquent they are. I also realized that someone can speak the truth, and come to the wrong conclusion. That’s why I can listen to something like Live’s Mental Jewelry and still really like it, even if I really disagree with a lot of what he’s saying. I dunno.. I can see some people not being so kewl with that, and that’s fine for them, but I like the idea of being able to take something that’s presented to me, and make my own conclusions. This album has challenged me as much as any almost any other I’ve ever heard, and I think I’m a better person because of it. Looking at the album now, I have to say that the sounds this album created are hard to top… The last 3.5 minutes of Closer, the last 45 seconds of I Do Not Want This, the last minute of Eraser, the last 2 minutes of The Becoming… I could go on through the entire album… I know Andy and I have commented on probably all of them and said something that includes the phrase “sounds so incredibly cool”. And the remixes of these songs (On Further Down the Spiral take these songs and build on them.. Eraser [denial; realization] may well be the kewlest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Imagine playing a massive first-person shooter [lan parties 1, 3, and 4] or Metroid Prime with this song cranked in the background… it’s pure bliss.
I intend to go through all the tracks on the album a little later on, so for now, I’ll just add some quotes I’ve collected.:
- ‘If I could just reach you maybe I could leave this place.’ – I Do Not Want This
- ‘All of my fears came true.’ – Piggy
- ‘I am the hate you try to hide, and I control you.’ – Mr. Self Destruct
- ‘You don’t know just how I feel.’ – I Do Not Want This
- ‘I hurt myself today to see if I still feel. I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real’ – Hurt
- ‘I now know the depths I reach are limitless.’ – Reptile
- ‘I wanna do something that matters.’ – I Do Not Want This
- ‘It won’t give up, it wants me dead goddamn this noise inside my head.’ – The Becoming
- ‘Kill me’ – Eraser
- ‘Nothing can stop me now, cause I don’t care anymore.’ – Piggy
- ‘The me that you know used to have feelings, but the blood has stopped pumping and he’s left to decay.’ – The Becoming
- ‘You didn’t hurt me, nothing can hurt me.’ – Ruiner
- ‘Nothing’s turning out the way I planned.’ – Piggy
- ‘You know how this world can beat you down.’ – I Do Not Want This
- ‘I am the voice inside your head, and I control you.’ – Mr. Self Destruct