Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral

Andrew Parks

By Andrew Parks

on 09.05.12 in Reviews

The Downward Spiral

Nine Inch Nails
Nihilism rarely sounds this satisfying

Not quite poetry, not quite Nietzsche For Dummies, The Downward Spiral is a much deeper listen two decades later than your inner angry teenager ever imagined. And yes, that includes the stripper anthem that smudged an Iggy Pop sample (the neon-lit beat in “Nightclubbing”) so convincingly that it singlehandedly established the connective tissue between Nine Inch Nails’ most popular album and its “single greatest influence,” David Bowie’s Low. The difference being that Bowie was battling a serious coke habit when he wrote the first chapter of his “Berlin Trilogy” and Trent Reznor filtered his own frustration through a stylized storyline — one man’s own personal hell — two steps ahead of his own. Whether that mercurial character ultimately ends it all doesn’t really matter; what happens between the battering ram beginnings of “Mr. Self Destruct” and the shit-stained balladry of “Hurt” does. That includes everything from the borderline hip-hop breaks of “Ruiner” — the remnants of Reznor’s once-rumored collaboration with Dr. Dre, maybe? — to the flesh-burrowing build of “Eraser,” with 50 shades of crazy coloring outside the lines elsewhere. Nihilism rarely sounds this satisfying.