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NINE INCH NAILS - 'Ghosts'   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Monday, 14 April 2008

"the only conclusion I can draw is after his previous, slovenly one-album-every-five-years approach, it appears that if anything, Trent Reznor is most definitely not on crack ."

 

Normally, I would’ve asked if Trent Reznor is on crack. But given the mans fierce workrate and renewed vigour over the past three years (which has seen five albums and a live DVD, including a remix set and a colloboration with Saul Williams), as well as the prolific touring that saw the band cover the world a couple of times without a break, and the huge online concept that sat behind the brilliant “Year Zero”, the only conclusion I can draw is after his previous, slovenly one-album-every-five-years approach, it appears that if anything, Trent Reznor is most definitely not on crack : and that’s what makes this record and his new workrate so important.

Nature abhors a vaccum, and it appears that nature has filled a crack-filled hole with Nine Inch Nails albums. I couldn’t think of a better thing to do so, personally. Taking the cue from Bowies Berlin-era instrumental forays and Aphex Twins early work, Ghosts is an epic 2 hour double album journey of purely instrumental Nine Inch Nails music. Yes, there are vocals : similar in tone and timbre to the wordless croon of Bowie, and yes, the music highlights and explores Reznor’s often under noticed capacity as a producer and as an arranger, to create densely layered musical sound pictures : lost in the melee of  the fierce attack of a live show and the recorded product. Whereas the other NIN records had moments of quiet and loud, light and shade, variant moments of moods between fury and despondency, Ghosts is a quieter journey. And with a quieter journey, comes the monotone view.

If Ghosts were a view, it would a American desert bus journey : a unchanging landscape that becomes almost oppressive in its uniformity. Stripped away from the confines of melody, chorus, conventional song structure and differentiation, it becomes almost boring. There’s little emotional impact in the material to an extent, it becomes a uniform, background impression, and starts to fade away. The hook and versimilitude of Reznors voice and the emotional truth of his lyrics is lacking, and it allows “Ghosts” to become a lesser artistic entity. The record certainly does have an important role in the bands canon, and is a brave move, allowing Nine Inch Nails to follow their own path and their muse, free of the confines of a major label system the band have grown to despise, but ultimately its not necessarily an artistic success. It’s only on the closing track “Ghosts IV : 36” (like AFX’s “Selected Ambient Works 2”, none of the songs have names), that the record begins to evoke a clear sense of moving the listener. It’s by no means a bad record but an artistically bold statement of musical integrity. I’d much rather Reznor follow his muse - even if it results in albums like this - than become a bad parody of himself in his old age trying to constantly recreate the genie in the bottle and turning into a furious version of the Rolling Stones. Ghosts is a bold and brave move that may not please the fans, but it is an interesting and important release that, at the very least, well worth investigation.

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