Trent Reznor is one of those venerable goth elders that we are all so beholden to for years of stellar music that it's hard sometimes to criticize him without sounding ungrateful. And we are grateful. But it's clear that over the last several years, Reznor has been struggling to find himself again as an artist. Gothtopia was not impressed with Nine Inch Nails' past two albums, With Teeth and Year Zero, though we applauded Reznor for continuing to experiment, and his announcement last year that he was considering abandoning performance entirely to develop recording software only served to confirm that he was feeling out of place. But we can assure you that his latest incarnation, How to Destroy Angels, is a good place for him to be. Reznor/Angels' self-titled, six-song EP is available for absolutely nothing. Nothing. Just go to the Web site and download it. You can drop $2 and get a downloaded video and slightly higher-quality audio, but the basic release costs nothing at all. And frankly, we're starting to wonder why all the good music is free and all the crap music is $15.
The album maybe the single greatest piece of goth audio since The Crow soundtrack. Reznor relinquishes vocal duties on the tracks to his wife Mariqueen Maandig, and the move is a good one. Maandig's voice takes the pain that is always present in Reznor's work and strips it of much of the frustration that's been infecting it in recent years, returning us to the pure masochistic beauty of something like "Hurt."
If you're looking to relive Pretty Hate Machine, sorry, this isn't it, but if you liked to lay on the floor, stare at the ceiling, and listen to The Fragile over and over and over and over again, then you will feel more at home.
That's not to say the album lacks a call to arms. "BBB," which stands for "big black boots," is certainly seething with desire to stomp, but you are more likely to identify with the sorrow of songs like "A Drowning," a droning dirge that plays like an aria out of Repo! The Genetic Opera.
It's times like this that we realize why so many people listened to Blue October - because they got impatient waiting for something real. Here is music to make your heart falter, to make the mindless ho-hum of your day grow silent, and tune you into the melody of your own mortality. Welcome back, Trent.
THINGS TO DO IN HOUSTON WHEN YOU'RE UNDEAD
When Gothtopia hauled our ass out to see Nitzer Ebb last year, the next day our inbox was flooded. Not with praise for his in depth review of the band, but with venomous hatred for failing to make it in time to catch Houston's newest rising electronica superstar act, //TENSE//.
Bobby Lane got frustrated with the direction electronic music was headed, and taught himself to handle the machines responsible for the current beeps and boops he produces. //TENSE// was born with dreams of resurrecting the almost-forgotten WaxTrax! label. If you listen closely, you can hear the heat and humidity taking hold of the machines, slowly infecting the circuits and dragging their electronic corpses to the dance floor.
The result plays like early Ministry, and certainly belongs up there with more established Houston acts like Asmodeus X and Provision. The band's new EP, Consume, will be available Wednesday, when they play their first show since Nitzer Ebb at Walter's on Washington.
The gig is serving as a warm-up for a debut in New York City later this month. Since our electronic acts are so notorious for long hiatuses between gigs, Gothtopia recommends you not end up like we did. Missing this is something you will definitey regret.