Stand Out Albums has been a showcase for my favorite albums across the vast performers that I love. Covering a little bit of everything from classic rock to country hits, much like Key Movies of My Life, it has been the albums that shaped me.
After covering the works of The Posies and Guster I figured it was time for a tonal shift into my rather eclectic taste in music so I though, what could be more of a change than a band I have loved since the early 90’s, Nine Inch Nails.
Today’s entry is probably this bands most recognized album and is surely one that got the most attention from ‘parents’ when it was first released, specifically for a song about being ‘closer’. Nevertheless, The Downward Spiral remains a keystone of the 90’s and is Nine Inch Nails second full length album release. So, lets talk about it!
Why This Album?
I can not believe it has been nearly thirty years since this album was released. The year1994 was a significant one, not only did grunge begin to see it’s end with the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, music in general was taking yet another tonal evolution that signified the frustration and general ennui that ‘the youth’ felt at the time. The Downward Spiral seemed to echo these feelings in a big way and boy did it resonate.
I remember visiting the record store with some friends to pick this particular release up as there was no way I was going to buy it under the gaze of my parents. Rumors of Nine Inch Nails’ being a bad influence had already began circulating among the more conservative parents so I knew it was only a matter of time before my music purchases were scrutinized. Taking this home, I put it on my discman and laid back allowing the layered, loud and emotional music to fully envelope me. I swear, I had never heard anything quite like it and it was truly a defining moment in where my music tastes evolved. Sure, I still loved the power pop melodies of the Posies, and the angst laden sounds of Grunge, but there was something visceral in this album that really just spoke to me and I loved every minute of it.
The album itself is a journey of sound and story but a story that is fully up for interpretation. I vividly remember discussing the nuance of this album with friends in high school. As this was very early internet era, not much information was readily available for consumption and so we began analyzing the very albums we got on our own creating our own takes on what they meant and why. The prevalent theory was that this album was the story of a serial killer’s decent into madness culminating in their own suicide at the end with the final track ‘Hurt’. This was only reinforced when we learned that Reznor had recorded much of it in the former home of Shannon Tate where she had been killed by the Manson Family some years prior. While this theory was never substantiated, it still floats around in my head when I listen to it, and I often wonder, maybe we were on to something. Regardless, it is still a masterpiece and one that still holds up today with some incredible individual tracks as well as being a complete album worth listening to in one sitting.
Little did we know…this would be the last album for almost five years but what came after was something very special.
Ruiner. This track has so many levels it’s insane, going from industrial insanity to having a tremendous classic rock guitar solo, you just cant go wrong.
I Do Not Want This. Oh man, this song. If there was ever an anthem for a 90’s teen it is this one. From the mantra of ‘I Do Not Want this’ and ‘I wanna do everything….I wanna do something that matters.’ it is intense, it is true and it is still as relevant as it was back then.
A Warm Place. This is just an instrumental but it is one of the most emotional and thought provoking instrumentals I have ever heard. To this day, this track puts me in a somber yet safe place that reminds me of the old walls I used to keep up just to survive. It is deep in every way and feels like something out of Bladerunner. Every time I listen to this album, this track is played at least twice before moving on.
Ok, Where do I get it?
This is one you will likely have to grab from discogs. For some reason physical copies seem to be out of stock everywhere but you can find them there. Also, Spotify where they have the AMAZING deluxe edition that is totally worth your while.
Next week…we find something fragile…. until then.
Late to the Game 9/14/2021
Thanks for reading, If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and also check out some retro tv goodness with the ongoing series Retro TV Reviews here. You can also find a few of my other Music Reviews Here.
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