Monday, October 09, 2006

I'm afraid I can't help it

Last week I featured Queen. Queen subsequently introduced me to David Bowie - through the track Under Pressure. I'll get back to that later. I love the incestual world of music. All of the good ones have been in the preverbial bed together at some point. I read so many music magazines as a teen and young adult (I pretty much bought as many of them as I could afford each month) that it was impossible for me not to pick up on the influences of my favourite artists. It stands to reason that if you like a particular artist chances are that you'll like their influences too.

The point is, Nine Inch Nails. I admit I didn't really want to like them, but it just happened. When Closer first came out in the mid 90s and they reached a wide target audience I was already yawning my head off. Of course all the dickhead boys at school thought the song was wonderful because it had the word FUCK in it, and that put me right off. Then the goths came out with their pleather and black lipstick and I thought it was all a little ridiculous. Even Trent Reznor himself taped up in black electrical tape looked relatively normal in relation to the goths. I took great pleasure in the spoof Closer to Hogs by the Nine Inch Richards (quite disturbing really). But, having said that I had loved Head Like a Hole, which Triple J had been playing for a while before Closer.

Towards the end of high school and early uni I got into The Smiths, The Cure, The Clash, The Pixies (if it had "The" in the band name then you know I was into it), Sonic Youth etc. I came across NIN again in a tribute on cable TV and sat down to watch it - I was a bit more ready for them. In the tribute Trent Reznor performed Get Down Make Love, which is a Queen song. You know how I feel about Queen. IMO the performance of that song was better than the original. A big call, I know. Later I found out that Queen and Kiss were huge influences on Trent Reznor. He also cited The Cure and Bowie as influences too. I love Bowie. I love The Cure. Meanwhile, I was already obsessed with Tori Amos, so I knew of the lyric "made my own, pretty hate machine" from her song Caught a Lite Sneeze and I knew that Trent had already collaborated with her on her song Past the Mission. Sometimes the music world has a bit of 6 degrees of separation going on. I checked out some of NIN's stuff and liked it but I was apparently small fry. Only a couple of days later I happened to be chatting online about music (what else? err), when my fellow chatter insisted that I go buy Pretty Hate Machine and basically berated me until I promised that I would.

So anyway, I went out and bought PHM on my next pay day. On my first listen I was a bit confused. I liked it, but I didn't. The sound was very indicative of the early 90s - which is of course when it was released. In the 7 or so years that had passed, music technology had changed a lot. There's not a lot you can change in the sound of a guitar. A riff is a riff and that hasn't changed all that much in... forever. Electronic/Industrial music however changes as technology changes and PHM sounded dated. After a few listens though it became one of those albums that always seemed to be in the player. It took me a while to appreciate but I think it's one of the best albums of our time. It's definitely a "I've cut my chest open and here's my heart", type album. Terrible Lie is still one of my all time favourite songs ever. I went out and bought The Downward Spiral and then when The Fragile came out I bought that too. I had somehow become a fan without really meaning to. I joined a prominent NIN forum where I discovered that I would never be quite as obsessed with them as the rest of the freaks. I was never a goth and I didn't really care if people called NIN industrial or not (apparently not, if you know what's good for you). I also discovered that NIN fans fall into three categories:
1) cross over Tori freaks.
2) Obnoxious freaks from planet goth who made trips to New Orleans to stand outside his house and lick his door knob.
3) Apple Mac/Gamer/remix/Anne Rice freaks.

I was category 1 - though I did have a bit of a vampire fetish. I never really got into any of the remix albums though (which apparently doesn't make you a real fan but anyway). I am more of a purist, I like the originals. Therefore my pick for today's MM goes against my dislike of remixes.

Back to Bowie (it's relevant). Bowie is truly one of my favourites as well. He's full of soul, I think. Immensely talented. Sublime. I went through a stage where I listened to nothing but Space Oddity and Ashes to Ashes along with many others, over and over and over. I'm not ashamed to admit that I also have a rather disturbing fetish for Suffragette City (all time favourites category). That's the old school stuff.

When I heard I'm Afraid of Americans I was literally floored. This is a song where the remix is better than the original and the remix honours go to Trent Reznor - who collaborated with Bowie here. Bowie has always been way ahead of his time. Just when you'd get used to one image he'd hit you with another, and different sound to go with it. So while Reznor and Bowie may at first seem like strange bed fellows, they really aren't. They've both always been one step ahead of their time. The song is bloody fantastic - but I admit you'll either love it or hate it. It's not 'typical Bowie' (if there is such a thing) nor is it 'typically NIN'. Besides isn't everyone fucking terrified of Americans?

I'm Afraid of Americans - David Bowie and Trent Reznor