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Comments

Howler

Why does Trent Reznor get all the love in the world?

Kate

Yea.

Jane

Howler: He gets all the love in the world because that's what's coming to him, and it's about time he got it.

Kate: Right?

Bryan

Howler: Because maybe, maybe just once, he'll get what's comin to him.

Ohhhh.

Oh god.

What's comin.

Daria

Jane, yes, you are right, something is gone. I saw a club show not long ago, it was loud and well executed but not dangerous. An odd camraderie, indeed, but (sadly) more so with the guys, though not always. I swear there used to be a more gender bending diva aspect of it, before. And now certain songs sound intensely threatening to me and the guys in the crowd are all "fuck yeah!" I also definitely sense that he is still figuring out the performance side, and this is really just a warmup. Strangely I thought both "Something I can never have" and "Hurt" worked and were very touching, maybe more than before because they were more real (and risky, singing them the way he looks now!) and less desperate.

Jane

Daria: Interesting.

I'm seeing the club show at the end of the month, and am really looking forward to seeing how it shapes up between now and then - also, how it differs from seeing him with 40,000 festival goers vs. a tight crowd of his own faithful. I really think he needs to ditch a big portion of the back catalog and play the new songs. I think it would go a long way to letting us see what's gained if we weren't remembering the past so much. At Coachella, he seemed a little nervous at first, and just happy to have everyone singing his songs by the end. There was some sweetness in it... but I would have liked to have heard the new stuff.

It's true that the energy of it all seemed more macho. Maybe it's the new he-man look, and he also seems less emotional; though, at the same time, he's still the one asking to be loved up there, and he's still just a little more emotional than I can believe a lot of guys would be comfortable with. I guess when you cloak it in plenty of heavy metal thunder, they swallow it all, though, don't they?

Bryan

Daria -- very interesting to hear your point of view on the shows as well.

Since you obviously weren't talking about last night's show, you also had the pleasure of seeing "Every Day is Exactly The Same" -- how did that song come off live? Along with Jane, I'm very anxious to hear how the new material translates when I see them later this month...

Daria

No, I didn't get to see "Every day," unfortunately!

I'm still thinking it over, but I felt some weird connection with a pretty macho crowd, like I'm not the only one who's best at handling emotional stuff if and only if it's surrounded by a ton of aggro rage. But there's a need for the emotional side, I don't think anyone else in rock is so unafraid to take on that role. Some of the guys there were quite funny. You could tell they were into it, but only able to sing some of the lines if they punctuated them by throwing metal and acting like it was a football cheer. It was very sweet, like they love it, but can't look too wussy singing it, but secretly, they love it. I am sure there were a few minor changes to "Hurt" (some notes, the tempo in parts) and his voice cracked on the second verse, and somehow.. it got to me on some level. And I respect that. They do need to play more of the new stuff; "Line begins to blur" and "With teeth" were utterly brilliant, while the loss of this abject terror element made a lot of older songs seem too theatrical.

Jane

It's an interesting shift - I think before, there was something very feminized about his role, and I think you hit the nail on the head in pointing out that that's one of the elements that's gone. It's always been part of the whole bundle of his contradictions that in terms of narrative structures (and even, to a great extent, his subjects and handling thereof), he's very linear and straightforward, and of course, the aggressiveness of his presentation is very masculine fist-of-power, but at the same time, his emotionality and the things he says and does, along with his self-presentation and opera length latex gloves spell transgression and in those days, knocked the legs out from under anything macho.

Daria, did you see the Fragility tour? If you did, what were your impressions of that? Bryan, you too - in terms of all this?

Bryan

Well in terms of male/female roles, I first got into the band whilst in college (this is the self-destruct tour in '94 we're talking), and there was a tremendous freedom that was afford in their live performances as a young male: it was ostensibly masculine and aggressive in nature, which was the doorway in, but once he/they/the music had you, it took you to this place of vulnerability, deviation, exploration.

I catch a lot of hell for being such a Pretty Hate Machine fan, but seeing something like "Sin" live was so fantastic because it takes sex, religion, gets them fucking, and then flips it back in your face -- and you're dancing while it happens. For a guy that was raised surburban and conservative, this was a big deal, and a whole lot of intellectual freedom came out of that. Freedom to go the places that The Downward Spiral and songs from that record required you go to. But they key to it all was the subversion; masculinity was the secret handshake, but once inside who the hell knew what was what. (I suppose that's my long-winded male take on the "femininity" portion of that particular presentation).

On the Fragility tour, I have to say I felt very little of this freedom. The angst felt strained, it felt forced; it didn't seem as if anything new or meaningful was being said. The Hardness With Which Reznor Brings The Rock that so many seem to focus on has never been the true allure for me. It's the transcendence. Fragility had none of that. It made me feel like a dull-eyed adult. Coachella, and what I'm hearing on the bootlegs (or what I would be hearing, if I were doing illegal things like listening to bootlegs) gets me excited for what's to come like nobody's business, and I dare say when the arena tour rolls around at the end of the year we'll be in for a totally different experience.

I agree that there's an air of something being discovered, that I definitely felt in Indio. The wobbly legs, as you put it, of The New Peformance; we're watching it evolve and you can feel that. Fragility 2.0 in comparison was like Coachella without the delight of being party to the conception-in-progress.

And as far as whether the shows will retain their masculine nature -- we also have to recall that Reznor is a man who feels truly self-posessed for the first time in his life. Perhaps this is who he has truly always envisioned himself. This may be the building blocks of The New Peformance. But whether it's masculine or not is not the issue -- it's whether he's going to use this self-posession to play against itself. Will he once again use the subversion against the system.

Is it possible to do this, to focus it on the negative portions of oneself, resulting in a truer sense of self? Fuck yes -- that's what WITH TEETH is about in the first place. But I admit I'm impatient as ever, and want to see it NOW.

Jane

Isn't it crazy how long-windedly we must process this material? I've really been thinking about this lately - how little process some things seem to require as opposed to how extensively others must be combed through.

Bryan, thanks for all that. I think you've got some great things in there, especially your less jargon heavy translation of how the transgressive elements played out in your mind. It's interesting to hear that, because for a girl, I think that experience of Reznor is a bit further removed; meaning that on a GENDER level, I experienced him and his transgression more as "other" and less as a reflection of self on that very direct, parallel kind of level. Hence the tongs of theory, perhaps. Also, what might make his whole schtick back then feel threatening to a man made him seem less threatening to me. It was as if he was wearing a big, loud prickly costume, and to make no mistake, he might hurt the hell out of you with it, but ultimately, he just needed to feel like it was ok to be him, or something. Much less frightening than relatively harmless looking drunk frat boys who don't give a second thought to anything as pansy as "who they are."

I didn't see the Fragility tour, because I sensed stagnation in everything about him at that time, and as someone who was hanging on the hope of his transformation, I couldn't watch him tread water or drown. I agree that this new period is thrilling, but what do you mean when you ask if he will "use subversion against the system?" Can you tell me more about your thoughts as to how he could do that?

Daria, we are dying for your thoughts on the Fragility tour! Where are you?!

Daria

Sorry. I went out for a run. (That sucked.) No, I did not see the Fragility tour. I was not really listening to them then, and I got the album and liked some of it but it didn't get to me the same way and I couldn't get past some of the lyrics. Maybe it sounds better now, though! At the time they were playing at fairly large venues and I hate going to those kinds of places, in fact, I never do.

The Spiral era presentation was pretty subversive. I know that term has suffered a lot from overuse but you know something weird is going on when guys over at that NIN forum are like "listen, I'm totally straight, right, but..." Must be the opera gloves. Now, I know there was interview where he talked about this, let me see if I can find it. Oh, here we go. Thanks Google. I guess this is 1994 or so:

"..the NIN central effigy is doing some sort of blues. And, according to Courtney Love, of all people, he is doing it from a feminine standpoint.

'I know what she's saying, I think,' Reznor responds thoughtfully. 'The degree of vulnerability is probably what she's reading as being feminine because on every song there's an AC/DC [element--no, he's not referring to the band], macho-man perspective. But there's something creative. I don't mind an observation like that at all. It's unusually flattering for her to say something like that. She said that same thing to me, actually. She likened that to one of the reasons she liked the music because that was how Kurt used to write as well. At the time, I took that as a compliment.'"

Bryan

Wow, way to bring back the memories with the old articles Daria. Nicely done. :-)

I think the paradigm that he (or Love) discuss in that interview is exactly the same thing we three have been talking about, we're just approaching it -- as you point out Jane -- from different experential points of view, based on our gender, cultural experience, and bias, etc.

We could even go deeper in terms of gender roles in a patriarchal culture, and my particular belief that the various "weaker" character attributes that are attributed to the subjugated gender (women), are actually traits that are most prevalant in men (i.e., the definers of the rules in a patriarchal system) and this projection is the dominant gender's way of distancing themselves from what they see as their own weaknesses. And what's happening with the NIN subversion is that, as men, we're actually being given the opportunity to reclaim these weaknesses as rightfully ours, and therefore grasp a truer sense of ourselves... but that might be going a bit far. (Though I'd love to hear your guy's thoughts on this -- especially from the female NIN fan perspective).

Anyway, in terms of using subversion against the system, I realize i'm shifting definitions a bit from what's commonly used, Jane, but I think you'll understand the shift when I say in [WITH_TEETH] that The System = Reznor (or the Self, if we're talking on that level). There's so much of this record that is about reclaiming yourself -- your abilities, the elements of yourself you always feared to explore, the effect you've had on those around you and the consequences thereof -- and it works on that level musically and lyrically. There is much of Reznor's familiar vocabulary at play here, but it once again takes it -- twists it -- and gives you a new message you didn't expect. In "You Know What You Are", Reznor turning his anger on his alter-ego rock star self, rather than at a pre-existing "Other", is a complete revelation from him as an Artist. And from everything I can glean -- and more importantly, from what I can hear on the record -- it seems he used the same tools and focus he has always had to heal himself, and make a record about healing.

In a sense, he used the tools of destruction to create himself whole. Subverting the intent of his own tendencies as a flawed human to repair the same tendencies.

So how can this relate to performance? How can he move it from the personal realm into the public realm, and convey it to the audience? And what kind of experience would this be?

If you go in expecting a dirty and dark NIN rock show, and you get smiling Trent Reznor, how can that dichotomy be turned into an experience of enthralling extremes? And can a rock show where you leave feeling empowered to get your shit together -- to make sure everything's "Right Where It Belongs" -- be an amazing experience in the first place?

These are the questions I've got... and I don't think the Artist will disappoint. He hasn't so far. But I want to leave that show with a feeling comparable to how I feel when the record ends. He's set the bar -- we just have to wait for him to hit it.

Jane

Check out the mileage on this shit! We're still sorting something out that happened 10 years ago, and I don't know about you two, but I have been absorbing With Teeth for better than a month now, and have only just today gotten my head around what some of it is getting at. This, right here, is what I love about Trent Reznor and his totally bitchin' art project.

Daria: That little snippet of interview is SO MONEY I can hardly stand it. Courtney may be a walking disaster-piece theater, but she's sharp. Also, I love Trent's taking that (rightfully) as a compliment. I remember thinking, when I first saw the Trent Reznor rock show, that I couldn't understand why guys liked his show at all! I mean, all that histrionic emotion, the fisting gloves and the feminized male sexuality, combined with the sense that he just had higher fucking voltage than anyone else had to be a little destabilizing to the un-reflective male psyche.

In a good way... which Bryan, I think you point out perfectly. At first I didn't get what you were saying, equating Trent himself with "the system" but now I see that you're simply saying that in the context of With Teeth, Trent's own personality, in some sense, takes the place "the system" once held in his work, which to me, brings up an interesting sort of flip in thinking. Everyone's really used to thinking about all of Trent's songs as being about himself, but perhaps it's possible to see a sense in which they never have been - they've always been about things outside of himself that impugned the purity of his sense of himself.

I have to say that I think you're absolutely right about the tools and their new use, and I actually think this is starting to be a really interesting thought with regard to how the magnitude can be regained.

Also, I have to agree with you that this whole thing is SO FUCKING EXCITING, and also, I agree that there's every reason to have faith in Trent's process, which now, in light of With Teeth, has truly never disappointed. I just wish I could fast forward! I seriously can't wait to see what's going to happen.

Jane

Plus, one more thing: I just want to revisit one of the best quotes EVER from Trent Reznor, which is from the Closure video, after a long sequence of boys putting on make-up, rubber costumes and covering themselves in cornstarch. Then, in the hallway just before stepping out onto the stage Trent says: "Ok, boys, let's tuck our dicks, become women, and make a show. That's what we call Rock n' Roll."

I just felt like it might be an opportune time to revisit that...

Daria

Jane, that quote is great. I haven't seen Closure. I am kind of against buying stuff like that for any musician I like, it implies a degree of fandom that I am uncomfortable with. Yes, that's silly. Perhaps I should rent it!

Bryan, I probably can't talk about a typical female perspective here, I see what you are saying about the "weaker" character attributes and I've always been caught in a bind over this. I don't feel comfortable with them and you can't reclaim something if people are pushing it on to you from the outset...

Some of the stuff about women in NIN songs is so much of why I like Reznor a lot, and some of the uglier moments pass by me unnoticed or I think "yeah, I see how certain types of people could provoke that." Of course it's his own fault if he prefers to spend time with those certain types and idiots like Marilyn Manson. Courtney Love is pretty astute (at her best) and when she was taking potshots at him back then I couldn't help but enjoy it because they got awfully rock star ridiculous in a bad way (not onstage though, it was all good onstage). At the club show I saw a few tackily tarted-up girls in vinyl (I was about to say "whores" in spite of myself) flirting with the event staff and thought, for the love of God, have some fucking dignity. Or go backstage and don't, what do I care. Most of the "she's" on the new record sound like oblique drug references (just like "Sanctified"), but more generally being whatever fixation or obsessive thought or behavior holds you back. Do I like that this gets referred to with "she"? Not really. Not because I care if it comes off as sexist, but because I don't like that it's been done a million times before.

I don't know what will happen next but hope the vibe isn't at all reactionary macho. One could certainly worry about that knowing the culture of that part of the Midwest where he's from, I don't think you'll find too many David Bowies there. But I recall reading that he thought "All the love.." was the best song on the record, which is a good sign. And his best stuff isn't really rock anyway.

Jane

Daria: Closure is very worth seeing as a document of that period. I look at it like this: T.S. Eliot is a poet whose work has been really important to me; I own a copy of everything ever published by T.S. Eliot, and I have tapes of him reading his poetry. If there were a video, I would have it, too. I don't own everything ever by Trent Reznor - the remixes, for the most part, bore the shit out of me - but his work has been important to me, and there's nothing about that that's embarrassing. He does beautiful work. On that tip, Closure is one thing I definitely recommend.

As for the other, frankly, there is no representation of femininity, or use of the word "she" in any of his work that bothers me at all. Within the context of what he's doing, all of that has it's own integrity, and what he's doing is totally subversive to any of the "uglier touches." I remember reading some indignant feminist article about him that was full of horror over "Big Man With A Big Gun", and just thinking that feminists can be so thoughtless and knee-jerk in their responses. That song, in it's context, is pretty much the most succinct dispatch of stupid macho bullshit that I've ever heard. Feminists should throw a fucking PARTY over that song. I think one of the big topics of Reznor's work is how it's possible to wield the very real and vital powers of masculinity, which he possesses in abundance, without being part of the machine of patriarchal bullshit.

As for characterizing things like addiction as "she", it's really just an effective way to assign them the status of otherness, which has nothing to do with women - it's just a duality. Even in a song like "Closer" I'd say it's not so much a specific woman as much as it is a relationship to an archetypal otherness. I think it's telling that when he does mention an actual woman, she is specifically named, and aligned with his elemental subjectivity: "hiding backwards inside of me I feel so unafraid, Annie, hold a little tighter, I might just slip away."

Personally, I give Trent a lot of credit - I think he's always been pretty clever about what he's doing, and I don't think there's any danger of his becoming all reationary macho. I'm not worried about that at all. I think it is interesting to note, though, that the transgressive posturing seems to be one of the things he's shed this time around, along with the things that were making him sick. I'll have to give that a liitle more consideration... Or maybe, just wait and see what happens.

Daria

We totally speak different critical languages! I'm a feminist, but even back before any of that crossed my mind "Big man with a gun" seemed completely hilarious. I guess whether there is making fun of macho posturing (like this song) or even the all-out aggro rage of Broken, I never found it scary, it's always turned inward sooner or later. In fact what is (accidentally on purpose?) striking is the utter pointlessness of all this rage, that the only thing it's good for is beating yourself up if you are drawn to doing that. I've got some bootleg tape from 94 where they play this and yeah, the lyrics try to threaten someone else, but in the live intro he says "if you feel like hurting yourselves.. or fucking yourselves up in some way.. this is a good song to do it to."

Oh, and maybe we are not so off base in being fascinated by this stuff. Read today's New York Times arts section, there is an article on this artist Banks Vi0lette which references Norwegian black metal, Judas Priest, and Kurt Cobain.. "In part, this success may be fueled by a vogue among galleries and collectors for what is sometimes called new gothic art, which fuses lurid, violent imagery and over-the-top, at times comic Romanticism.." Excellent. It's nice to think my radar is still tuned to the right frequency..

Jane

Daria: Yes, I think it's all totally turned in on itself. Also, I'd say that in this day and age, we're all feminists, and standing on the shoulders of feminists. What I'm saying, though, is that in Trent Reznor's work, patriarchy is an equal opportunity oppressor, defining systematized positions for masculinity and femininity that his voice utterly rejects.

As Bryan points out, there's a sense of reclaiming things that are often considered weakness by a traditional macho perspective, and a desire to root out the elements of that that have been internalized. I think the incredible power of the Self Destruct tour was the way he allowed himself to be all those things at one time - a sense in which the sickness, addiction, transgression, even the bullshit with Courtney Love, or the humiliation of groupies - combined with his pure "I'm the two guys in charge around here" competence, obvious intelligence and the almost righteous hatred of all that and of himself for it going hand in hand with a whole "fuck you, I'll do whatever I fucking want" defiance. He presented an incredibly vivid picture of the problem in a big, exaggerated way, and with every part of his public life. He made it real, made it HIM, then he raged against it. He stood in the center of so many contradictions. Then he paid a big price for it, apparently.

That's interesting about Banks Violette... but it seems like a big chunk of the dark romanticism is kind of played out in Trent's work. I also really like that quote from '94. I would love to hear that song played live.

becky

Wow, where do I start........

Jane wrote:
"I would rather he never made another record and lived happily ever after than that he be miserable"

My God, you took the words right out of my mouth. When my husband and I were analyzing the progression of TR's music, I pretty much said what you did! I knew there was going to be this certain crowd that would bitch about W.T. because it was a pretty big shift from where he started, and where he has been in the past. I said, if the guy gets his shit so together and is so friggen happy that his creative bite goes out the window..so be it! He's given a lot...it's his turn to be happy, it means he's probably reached the ultimate goal for himself, and a true fan would simply thank him for what he did share & wish him well. Most people don't go where he's been and live to tell about it!

Bryan wrote:
"Reznor is a man who feels truly self-posessed for the first time in his life. Perhaps this is who he has truly always envisioned himself."

Bryan, I think you are correct about this. It's part of why W.T. has moved me the way it has, being a very long time NIN fan...all the way back to dancing in the clubs when P.H.M. came out. All the years that I've kept up with what TR has done, and connected to each phase of his work/life .

Jane wrote:
"I didn't see the Fragility tour, because I sensed stagnation in everything about him at that time, and as someone who was hanging on the hope of his transformation, I couldn't watch him tread water or drown."

I didn't see him during that tour either Jane, I bought the record, and it's brilliant, but I know what you are talking about..something "underlying" didn't feel quite right and I couldn't really put my finger on it at the time. Knowing what I know now about what was going on with him, I've revisted The Fragile & ATCHB DVD...and you know what...it kicked me in the stomach..and I wept....hard. Understanding what he was going through at that time has me appreciating that time period even more now. Even though something felt "off" during then, ...I still very much connected with the record.

Bryan wrote:
"There's so much of this record that is about reclaiming yourself -- your abilities, the elements of yourself you always feared to explore, the effect you've had on those around you and the consequences thereof -- and it works on that level musically and lyrically." AND
"In "You Know What You Are", Reznor turning his anger on his alter-ego rock star self, rather than at a pre-existing "Other", is a complete revelation from him as an Artist. And from everything I can glean -- and more importantly, from what I can hear on the record -- it seems he used the same tools and focus he has always had to heal himself, and make a record about healing."

I agree with you Bryan!!! You get it! There is a chunk of the fan base that don't understand this and I chalk it up to them probably not being there from the begining and going "through it".

Bryan wrote:
"If you go in expecting a dirty and dark NIN rock show, and you get smiling Trent Reznor, how can that dichotomy be turned into an experience of enthralling extremes? And can a rock show where you leave feeling empowered to get your shit together -- to make sure everything's "Right Where It Belongs" -- be an amazing experience in the first place?"

I'd answer this by saying, yes, it can be an amazing experience, probably the most to those that were there from the start, connecting to the music from the beginning. Someone just coming into the picture and playing catch up with all that's taken place within the same time frame of their own life, I'm not sure it will impact them the same. People like my husband who are musicians, will definitely have an appreciation for his moments of genius regardless of how long they've been a fan, and which time frame each song played comes from. Newer fans can still really enjoy, because they'll know the "hits", and the stuff from W.T. in particular, is TR's most "accessible" material since the songs from P.H.M. So, yes, but especially to those that where there from the beginning.

Jane wrote:
"Closure is very worth seeing as a document of that period. I look at it like this: T.S. Eliot is a poet whose work has been really important to me; I own a copy of everything ever published by T.S. Eliot, and I have tapes of him reading his poetry."

I haven't seen Closure yet either, but I agree with you Jane, it's good to have documentation of the entire experience. Like I said about revisiting The Fragile period..knowing everything I know now...gives me a fresher perspective and the ability to appreciate it even more. I did see NIN at Woodstock 94, so I did witness some of what was going on back then, but I do feel I need to see Closure. Getting a hold of copy might be a challenge (seen it advertised for sale used..50 bucks!)

I apologize for my long windedness, and I hope I didn't misunderstand where any of you guys are coming from..if I did, please set me straight. I loved reading the discussion. I don't feel like such a nut for being so impacted by all I've witnessed for the past 16 or so years. Bottom line, I'm really excited for TR...I hope he continues on a healthy path for himself!

becky
:)

Jane

Becky: Thank you so much for your comments! I just wanted to say that I've been having the same experience with The Fragile and the live DVD that you have - I loved that record for its beauty, but just couldn't let it in, for some reason - it was just a bit too painful in some way - but I'm loving it now, even if that's true. In fact, I had taken a long break from listening to Nine Inch Nails after The Fragile came out, but I'm finding that in light of recent developments, and how great With Teeth is, the whole back cataogue has come back to life for me, and I'm finding that all of my enthusiasm for it was just lying dormant, waiting for the right catalyst.

I also agree that it's so good to see Trent so well. I hope he knows there are people out here who are really pulling for him.

Howler

Wow. This is some deep shit. You lost me!

becky

Thanks Jane, glad I'm not the only one in the boat on this one. I guess a lot of us who have followed Trent all these years had the same experience. I too didn't really touch much of anything until last year. What got me started again was my husbands interest in Trent after hearing Johnny Cash do Hurt. Hubby wanted to know more about the guy that wrote that! Then WT...and Trent opening up in the interviews he's been doing....everything came rushing back..and revisiting his work knowing what we know now..it's a whole new experience....and has an even deeper meaning to me now.

Happy Birthday to Trent today. 40 is not old. We don't get older..we get better!

:)

Jane

40 is the prime of life! Thank God he made it, and is in full possession of his powers. I know this is a really gay thing to say, and I know it lacks even a scrap of academic distance or cool ironic detachment, but it's amazing how much all of his work is in my heart forever. Everything he's ever done in the past is strengthened and made more whole by his latest, which is an incredible feat. It's also amazing how much I am looking forward to whatever's next. I know it will surprise and thrill me, and I can barely stand the suspense.

And, Trent (because I'm sure he'll just spend the whole day ego-surfing for birthday wishes and reading long-winded crap like all this): Happy Birthday.

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