Saturday, June 09, 2007

Video Vault

Nine Inch Nails, Down In It.

Trent Reznor is to indie rock as Quentin Tarantino is to indie film. Both came out of nowhere to drop stunning debuts that weren't exactly original, but combined elements both familiar and novel into a complete work in a way that hadn't been done before. In Reznor's case, his starting point was industrial music, but he took it in a more accessible direction by lightening it up with traditional rock and pop structures, hip hop beats, techno and synth pop.

Nine Inch Nails' debut single, Down In It, was a successful combination of these and other elements that was just a tad more accessible than similar work being done at that point by Ministry, Skinny Puppy and Cabaret Voltaire. The follow up, Head Like A Hole, was harder as both a rock song and as industrial music, and the album, Pretty Hate Machine, turned out to be a strong collection of dark, buzzing techno rock. Trent was off to a great start. Even more impressive than the tracks he had released so far was his obvious talent and ambition. It really looked like he was poised to be, and do, something special.

He followed it up with a harsher, more industrial EP, Broken, and then the album The Downward Spiral.

The Tarantino parallel is that a minor work, True Romance, was rushed into production after the success of Reservoir Dogs, filling the breach before his next "real" project, Pulp Fiction. I'm sure many people will disagree, but I regard this sequence pretty much the same way as I do Nine Inch Nails: initial promise, followed by a cynical, but actually pretty good, cash-in project, followed by a highly anticipated Major Statement that got a lot of attention and basically good reviews, but didn't really represent much of a creative step forward -- in fact, given the revolutionary nature of not just the debut, but of the talent that produced it, it was something of a disappointment.

Since then both Trent and Quentin have regressed. They're both overly obsessed with the styles that produced them. Both of them have long since stopped using their lowbrow references as jumping-off points, and have instead twisted themselves and their many followers and associates into confused pretzels trying to reinvent disposable styles as something bigger and better. Nine Inch Nails has become just another loud, formless hard rock band with industrial overtones -- basically a better version of Ministry. Tarantino has let his love of cheesy 1970s exploitation flicks get the better of him.

Anyway, here's the video for Down In It. It's just a mishmash of Trent and two other guys stumbling through abandoned warehouses and grubby streets, but it works as an advertisement for the brand name that NiN was just beginning to develop.

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