Volume 94, Issue 55
Wednesday, December 6, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Big name acts falter a little with their new CDs
Nine Inch Nails
Things Falling Apart
The title of the latest Nine Inch Nails release seems to be somewhat prophetic.
Last year's effort, The Fragile, was a bit of a disappointment. After a long wait, Trent Reznor failed to produce an album that lived up to the promise of his 1994 classic, The Downward Spiral. While The Fragile was certainly a strong record, it just didn't have the same magic as its predecessor. As a result, the album didn't fair well critically nor commercially, and Mr. Reznor began to appear fallible.
Things Falling Apart is a stop gap record, a collection of remixes, demos and previously unreleased tracks. While it's true that remix albums can't be judged on the same level as standard new releases, the CD seems to be the continuation of a disturbing trend for Nine Inch Nails: it's not very good.
The three versions of "Starfuckers, Inc" are uniformally dull and annoying, while the reinterpretation of "The Frail," one of the best pieces on The Fragile, essentially ruins the song. The one track with any real merit on the album is Reznor's new cover of the Gary Numan classic, "Metal."
While die-hard fans of Nine Inch Nails may find Things Falling Apart an exciting listen, for anyone else, it's probably not going to elicit a positive reaction.
Aaron St. John
Holy Wood (in the shadow of the valley of death)
With his latest release, Holy Wood, it seems the pagan prince of "shock rock" has finally lost his shock.
After a triumphant climb to superstardom following the release of 1996's Anti-Christ Superstar, Marilyn Manson took a slight deviation with Mechanical Animals, a Bowie-esque venture into androgyny and glam rock. Now it seems he's returned to his former self haunting vocals set to menacing soundscapes with the same old anti-God rhetoric firmly in place.
The opening string of tracks are the album's most impressive. The nightmarish "Godeatgod" sets a clear tone for what's to come, while "The Fight Song" is a harrowing rock number with a punk twist and an unforgettable, anthem-like chorus in which Manson wails: "I'm not a slave to a God that doesn't exist/I'm not a slave to a world that doesn't give a shit." A further track, "In the Valley of the Shadow of Death,"is a soothing acoustic sojourn from the rest of the album's rage. For a brief moment, Manson's cavernous vocals are forced to hold their own, which, surprisingly enough, do quite well. This track is perhaps the closest Marilyn Manson ever comes to a ballad.
The problem with this new Marilyn Manson project is that, for the most part, it was released in 1996 under the guise of AntiChrist Superstar. Holy Wood is an unoriginal, self-absorbed journey into themes of isolation that Manson has already explored in his previous work. Judging by his apparent songwriting abilities, he clearly has valid things to say, yet he continues to drone on about the same things over and over again. With 19 tracks in total, some critics may even go so far as to refer to this album as "boring."
Despite a few promising moments, Holy Wood further de-mystifies Marilyn Manson both as an artist and a figure. With his shocking veneer finally worn off, what remains of him is little besides a guy with running mascara.
And that, sadly, isn't much.
After dropping two multi-platinum albums that changed the face of hip hop, the Wu-Tang Clan has returned with The W, an attempt to prove to the world they're still on top of the game. With the exception of a few tracks, the nine man Clan seem to do just that.
Any recent claims that Wu-Tang has fallen off will be quickly silenced after hearing their first single, "Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off)," on which each of the Wu's members flow perfectly over RZA's mix of guitar, strings and drums. The Clan also impresses with "Gravel Pit." If Bruce Lee was still making movies, he'd use this track as one of his theme songs.
The most impressive track on The W comes with the help of Isaac Hayes, who makes an appearance on the sombre "I Can't Go To Sleep." Although the orchestra violins and horns are a bit loud, Ghostface Killah and RZA still manage to present with poetic perfection the emotional struggles found in the ghetto.
Unfortunately, Wu-Tang begins to disappoint when they start featuring outside MCs, with the exception of Busta Rhymes on "The Monument." The chorus on "Redbull" interrupts Redman's vocals a bit too much; Snoop Dogg's mellow voice on "Conditioner" clashes horribly with ODB's screaming vocals; and the basic lyrics presented by Nas on "Let My N***** Live" have no place on a Wu-Tang album.
Although the Clan can't be blamed for the absence of Ol' Dirty Bastard, absent from this record are the classic Kung Fu fighting sequences that made past albums interesting. Unfortunately, they've been replaced with little besides GZA and RZA freestyles that are interrupted to allow Raekwon to attempt a robbery.
Despite these flaws, Wu-Tang still makes a strong effort with The W, primarily due to the Clan members' impressive hip-hop lyrics alongside the 'Samurai' beats of RZA. Wu-Tang won't have any trouble ruling over hip hop's current MCs their only problem will be surpassing the high standards they set for themselves with their first two albums.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000