Resonance: Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails

Of the songs that stand out, “Head Like a Hole” and “Terrible Lie” are probably the two songs I was familiar with before I knew the name Nine Inch Nails. My musical coming of age not until I was in my adolescence, there are vague memories of a muffled rendition of “Head Like a Hole” playing on my sister’s stereo behind closed doors. I didn’t know what it was, I would have been about six, but what I did know is it was different from other things, the things I usually heard my sister play on the radio. Flash forward to my burgeoning hormonal teenage years. Bored homeschooling dNine-Inch-Nails-Pretty-Hate-Machine-Album-Coverays of music catalogue perusals led me to the discovery of band called Nine Inch Nails. I didn’t know who they were, there was no internet back then, at least not one readily accessible to a middle class citizen in the mid 1990s. The album I acquired then, some of you will remember was called Broken, an E.P that forever changed the way I saw music, and realized its intense power over emotion and influence. It was at this time that I connected “Head Like a Hole” to Nine Inch Nails. The problem was, for a boy of 13, in the era of the compact disc and accessibility to music only available through purchase or radio and cable music television, the album Pretty Hate Machine was scarce (available in cassette tape at the time, but who bought cassette tapes then?! They were as passe as compact discs are today, however, back then, CD was the way of the future). When I finally got my hands on Pretty Hate Machine we were somewhere in limbo between Downward Spiral and The Fragile. It was much needed to fill the void of material. Retrospective to 1989, here we see another musical act before its time, creating a mix of rock and metal elements with electronic and dance. But wait! you say, what about industrial rock? A look back to such acts as Front 242, Ministry,  Throbbing Gristle, Nitzer Ebb, Laibach, and Skinny Puppy, to name very few. Still, Trent Reznor and his Nine Inch Nails assisted in jarring open the door of this unique mix of electronic and metal to a larger public in an era that was geared towards darkness and Armageddon. This aural plea from the soul of this madman pleased the environment as it trudged toward the new millinium, and it began with “Head Like a Hole,” a song all at once rebellious and angry as musical and catchy. I always tend to look at they lyrics of things and could only imagine what or who he sang about. Was it just the concept of money and those either ensnared in its greed or its influence of power? Either way, the song was a protest by its own right. “Terrible Lie” is another song noteworthy for its timelessness, and the song I admired for its depth and texture, its tangible angst, an element not easy to wield. The song aims of betrayal and self-doubt, lack of control and lack of forgiveness. Its mechanical open a wretched alarm to the listener, brandished throughout. The gothic gray and gossamer white synths that wine in the back, the chatter of electronic buzz and banter, Trent’s distinct vocal pate shredding and moaning against they raucous but acute music. Another hit to come off the album, a single also hip and recognizable, “Down It.” This song began to show how versatile the band could be, not secluding its anger to the dark of night, but also in the light of day, chipper to a point, still with no recourse but to trick the listener. A classic industrial track, it became one of their most popular songs early on. The album carries on this way presenting something I find somewhat more ‘marketable,’ or user friendly for what it was. The language of the album, minimal inferences socio-analytic commentary as one bears in “Head Like a Hole,” as much the expression aggressive diatribe offers and sex. Many songs are riddled with innuendo and requiem, explorative to orgasmic ends, some laden with shame and others curiosity. It was enough to keep this gay boy wondering and smitten by the thought of Trent Reznor.  Another personal fave, on the album is “Sin,” a track tucked sonically away at the back end of the album, and a song I feel laid a path to where their next musical exploits would go. A nice hallmark of some tracks on this album, also I think laudable, are the many tracks accessible to a dancefloor: “That’s What I Get,” “Down In It,” “Kinda I Want To,” “The Only Time,” a caviatte seen scarcely as the bands catalogue expands. The conclusion, the post-industrial, retro electronic jam, “Ringfinger” completes Pretty Hate Machine on a high note, listeners eager for what’s to come, and for those just learning of Nine Inch Nails, an oasis of sustenance and dynamic origin. Twenty years on this classic still timeless as I put it on repeat.

Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
1989, Interscope Records

Tracklist:

  1. Head Like A Hole
  2. Terrible Lie
  3. Down In It
  4. Sanctified
  5. Something I Can Never Have
  6. Kinda I Want To
  7. Sin
  8. That’s What I Get
  9. The Only Time
  10. Ringfinger

 

This review of Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved. 

 

Resonance: No Need to Argue by The Cranberries

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A question of propriety regarding its remembrance, I thought about a retrospective type review. To revisit pivotal inspirations from my youth, nothing was more appropriate than the album, No Need to Argue by the Cranberries. It was one of the first five albums I owned independently as a youth. It was one of those special albums whose relationship no one else understood. The album begins, the first three tracks, a mature and familiar continuation of the album’s predecessor, Everybody Else is Doing it so Why Can’t We? Dreamy music ushered by sweeping guitars and the angelic crooning of the despondent and affirmed, fans of The Cranberries could rest assured the alternative rock act maintained a signature style albeit for consistency’s sake. “Ode to My Family,” a heartfelt track soft with acoustics, hypnotic synths and O’Riordan’s heart-pitch vocals, followed by the upbeat if not lyrically sorrowful “Be With You” and capped off by the nostalgia tinged, acoustic reverie “Twenty-One,” reprises the pensive yet verdant fields of the bands freshman creation before rising its fan base with the austere strumming of the guitar that opens the smash single “Zombie,” the track not only made the Cranberries household in the United States, it added a new dimension to the nature and artistry the band presented. It is a feral gift, a sonic missile the band uses conservatively, more reliant on the melodic crisp ambiance of natural sounds versus distorted. “Zombie” was as effective a rock song, as a metal song, a power pop song, and a female powerhouse Rockstar anthem all in one. It was heavy, it was catchy, it was raw. It was sexy. I recall being captured by its force and aggression, its nigh grunge aesthetic, its awareness of the world around it. I was captured by its art. And as the song closed in a sting of sharp resonance, we return to the ease of pianos and violins as the song “Empty” takes us away, pulling us deep on its strings and weeping vocals, a deep resonance showering from O’Riordan’s soul. The album continues on this way, a complex mix of dreamy guitars and wispy percussion. Dolores O’Riordan  moves from song a gossamer of emotional nostalgia. There is a definite sadness to her lyrics:

“Cause if I die tonight,
would you hold my hand?
Oh, would you understand?

“And if I lived in spite,
would you still be here,
No? Would you disappear?”

~~  “Everything I Said”

Perhaps there is something to it. Why in this period were popular, and even underground artists and musicians so responsive to the deep? As the music of tracks like “Dissapointment” and “Ridiculous Thoughts” are indeed inspirations reminiscent of elmements utilizied by the Cure and the dark and driven tracks talented by acts like Echo and the Bunny Men or Morrissey, and the ancestral twang of the Cocteau Twins.  O’Riordan’s voice an entity all it’s own, she tells a story via the emotion she imparts aurally rising from siren calls to demure retrospective. Coupled with the music, they create a dimension of realness, something you can hold to. As a fan from my youth, of course I was saddened at her loss. Stunned to know at 46, with such shining prospect, Dolores O’Riodin would depart. To date, I had believed she removed herself as had been reported she attempted before. Instead, she parted much the same way another renowned singer did, accidentally in the bathtub of her hotel room. Not to diminish the talents or the memory of Dolores O’Riordan, passing in the same manner as music icon Whitney Houston, leaves footnotes to a story yet to be told, but perhaps to be told soon.

As one of the largest things to come out Ireland, creatively speaking anyway, the nature of this band is important to a global story unfolding slowly. One whose roots extend deep into art and culture. It is the shadow of a ghost seen by these troubled artists and their auric record. The heaviness and emotion represented by the four members of a now iconic 1990s rock act, stand present to represent the forgotten talents, and the reverence to the artistry music still wielded to this point in the industry. But specters aside, the mastery of song and presence presented in No Need to Argue by the Cranberries is worthy of another listen, and of appreciation for talents shared and talents sacrificed.

The Cranberries – No Need To Argue 
1994, Island Records

Tracklist: 

  1. Ode To My Family
  2. I can’t Be With You
  3. Twenty-One
  4. Zombie
  5. Empty
  6. Everything I Said
  7. The Ic9icle melts
  8. Disappointment
  9. Ridivouous Thoughts
  10. Dreaming My Dreams
  11. Yeat’s Grae
  12. Doffodil Lament
  13. No need to Argue

This review of No Need to Argue by the Cranberries is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved. 

 

 

Art As Much As Comedy – A Review of Sticks and Stones by Dave Chappelle

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Dave Chappelle’s “Sticks and Stones” on Netflix.

When it comes to Hollywood people like Dave Chappelle, I learned about him just like many teens were introduced to him in the mid 90’s, by way of a jeering comedy all about the one taboo that mattered at that time: weed. Half-Baked, an instant cult-classic about cannabis culture lambasted joke after recklessly high joke. It’s all the guys seemed to care or talk about at school, so naturally it would become part of my library of reach when referring to Chappelle’s work. Fast forward nigh on twenty years, and the showman’s landscape has changed. Of course there is the “Cancel Culture,” which is relevant to many stars,  but there is so much more. The #metoo culture, the racist culture,  the PC police, and the phantoms of white supremacy, global warming, conspiring Russians, and Nazi Hitler. Regardless of all these sexy, racy (no pun intended) topics, there is no way an audience member does not feel even slightly awkward and uneasy as Chappelle traipses through the topic of pedophilia and Epstein. In fact the opening salvo just vomits Epstein all over the audience, forcing them to refamiliarize themselves with that faint memory of a name spoken once or twice on the cable news networks. And what now? This name is falling out of Dave’s mouth? What comedian starts a show talking about a serial child rapist that “committed suicide” while gleefully hopeful for a sentencing deal when finally faced with real justice. It makes no sense. Either way, Chappelle does not side with or incite anything by talking about Epstein. The punch line, a thought-full and particular narrative, rounds out to the stoic topic of convo in a quip so sardonic it had me loudly laughing!

Anyway, pedophilia, top of mind. He talks about Michael Jackson, Epstein, R. Kelly. Some of these jokes are quite controversial, and, yet, somehow it seems that there could be nothing more so controversial than talking about the “alphabet people.” The LGBTQ…. I’ve oft heard that there is some sort of Gay Mafia, you know that some one like Kevin Spacey may have been associated with. But, in the end, there seems to be a mafia for everyone. So whatever or whomever these individuals supposedly are, one has to wonder why the myth prevails. So much so Dave must retaliate. Some of the jokes he told about the dynamics and personalities of the “alphabet people” were nigh spot on from my personal experience, but the ones that didn’t land, I could understand where he’d get the idea. As a member of the “Alphabet People,” I didn’t find anything offensive or hurtful in his show. Perhaps the most controversial, though, was the way he laid into the “T”s, as we know: transexuals. Nevertheless, the most important thing that stands out about this comedy act, to me, is the way Chappelle takes his listless audience from topic-to-controversial-topic, in the most lewd, politically incorrect, rampage, ushering them from genuine laughter, to edge the of discomfort, through thought-provoking and fleeting enlightenment, to fits of applause.

I appreciate that Chappelle is able to take on such major topics in a way not many comedians can or do (a la George Carlin or Bill Hicks). Dave is, obviously, no stranger to controversary, and has stayed away from Hollywood for many years, most recently from what I understand, the second time he’d been away in as many years. Still, I can’t help but feel that Chappelle doesn’t just get in trouble with minority groups and descent people, he probably gets in trouble with producers, politicians and the likes. He ambles in and out of topics like racism, abortion, and even Trump all while jarring the subconscious. Speaking of haranguing the people in power,  in one of the epilogues to the show, where Dave lets audience members ask questions, he goes into this story about how Chris Tucker visited with him and brought his ‘friends’ over, namely: Kamala Harris, the then governor of California, and some important news anchor.  Barrack Obama was a focal character of this yarn, and again appeared later in the show to round out the punchlines. Albeit many of these individuals are now mixed up in some stuff in Washington, the Epstein case being among one of the primary leads. But even addressing a topic like gun control can go either way at the dinner table, and ultimately, leave a bad taste in ones mouth. And let’s face it, as funny as his solution to gun control is, it’s still controversial to the virtuously sensitive. Anyway, this is masterful art. I think one of the most brilliant comedic pieces ever written that addresses present societal conditions in a remarkable commentary the audience can’t believe it agrees.

 

Sticks and Stones by Dave Chappelle, an Netflix Comedy Event, is available for viewing now.

“Comedy As Much As Art: A Review of ‘Sticks and Stones’ by Dave Chappelle,” is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved.