>> Featured Artist: Nine Inch Nails
It seems that Trent Reznor lost his muse sometime during the making of 1999's The Fragile. While parts of that double LP reached the heights of Renzor's career, there was a notable drop-off in some points. And With Teeth (2005) felt like so forced and calculated that the title seemed to be poking fun at the band. Reznor's creativity and pop sensibility, both of which have never really left him, are apparent, but muted by horrible lyrics with no depth or meaning whatsoever.
Maybe it was far from the truth, but The Downward Spiral felt honest - like Reznor was putting it all on the line. He sounded desperate, he sounded fucked up, he sounded pissed. And believable.In 1994, NIN showed us what they meant. Since then, Reznor's outfit has mostly feigned these attitudes and feelings. I just found everything so hard to believe.
But, as we're told every time Trent heads back to the studio, they're saying the man is back. I'd love this to be true (even if to vindicate my youth).But from what I've heard of the forthcoming album, Year Zero, it's not. And yet while the clunkers still clunk, they aren't clunking as hard. And there are even moments of great promise - such as the refrain of "My Violent Heart" and the majority of "Survivalism," the first track of his in years that has sounded inspired.
It'll take another track or two of this promise that'll make me want to open up my wallet for NIN. Again. It occurs to me, though, that maybe it isn't just Reznor who is past his prime. More likely the root of this issue is that I have just grown up and out of my Nine Inch Nails era.
My faith, however, will continue. Perhaps he should try a country-western album.
>> Album Lookout: Cassadaga
I've never loved Bright Eyes. Not like everyone else has at least. Not even close. There was always something just a little too precocious in his lyricism and something a little too wobbly in his voice.
Without fail, though, there is always at least one song on every album that is truly brilliant. On "Four Winds" Oberst takes another stab at a relevant political song. He seems to be going after a little bit of everythign - after war, religion, etc., etc.
Some lyrics tip off the "oh-god" meter, such as the line suggesting "if you burn [the Bible, the Torah and the Koran] together, you'd be close to the truth" and something about a genocide "sleeping" in South Dakota. But the song - with its fiddles and country overtones - survives. At moments its build even creates a sense of urgency.
I realized a few years back that no Cleveland Opening Day could be complete without Randy Newman's "Burn On." About to venture up to the "city of light, city of magic" for what will be my 19th of the past 21 consecutive home openers with my dad and a few compadres, I find myself with the same fresh hope that each new season brings.
No other day of the year competes in this arena.
And though Randy Newman wrote this with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, it has acquired an anthemic quality to me. That lush breakdown before the final refrain has been known to bring a few goosebumps in its day.
And as the season begins next week and the Indians take the field, Cleveland will reclaim its spot - even just for a moment - as the greatest city I've ever known.
Burn on, big river, burn on