Not Worth Your Nothing

How to Destroy Reznor

Unless you’re a Trojan or Jack Woltz, you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. At least that’s what they say. But I’ve never really trusted them. There are plenty of free horses into whose oral cavities one can, and should, take a gander: a sample of dried edamame snack food in a little paper cup at Costco; complimentary breakfast at a hotel with rooms starting a $29.99; influenza. The first release from Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails), wife Mariqueen Maandig, and third wheel Atticus Ross’ joint musical experiment How to Destroy Angels (HtDA) is another great example. So let’s take a look at it. Right in the mouth.

The most apparent difference between Reznor’s previous work (to which HtDA will most readily be compared) is having Maandig sing. I’ve always been interested in what NIN would sound like with a female singer, and eagerly awaited this release. However, I assume Reznor didn’t marry her because he thought she’d be a good addition to the band, nor does the love a talented musician impart upon you the ability to sing. Instead of choosing a female vocalist based off of, say, interesting vocal abilities, Reznor seems to have brought Maandig along on account of she presumably just didn’t want to sit at home alone all day while he’s out recording.

When asked his thoughts on the music video for The Space Between (one of six songs on HtDA’s self-titled release, during which Maandig plays a murder victim), a friend of mine commented, “She did a good job singing like a dead person.” This is, unfortunately, true for the other five songs.

Maandig is completely adequate. Average. Competent. She found a comfortable octave, and stayed there. She seems to spend the entire album trying to whisper as loud as she can. Whereas Reznor, in bygone days, will go from screaming to falsetto and back in one song, Maandig never raises her voice. Whatever the subject of the song, she seems to feel that lyrics need only be stated to have meaning. She sounds like a scared 7th-grader giving a monotone speech to her class; technically perfect, but emotionless and dull.

The music to which she’s set suffers from the same lack of dynamism. Most of the songs have the same unchanging drum beat from beginning to end. One of them doesn’t even change chords once, repeating the same measure of music in the same key with the same juvenile lyrics over and over and over. In fact, for much of the album, the only change the songs go through is they’re usually louder at the end.

What makes Reznor’s previous works so interesting is his range. The Fragile goes from La Mer to Starf**kers, Inc. The Slip (another gift horse from Reznor with both amazing teeth and no Greeks) goes from Head Down to Lights in the Sky. The Downward Spiral goes from Hurt to pretty much every other song on the album. Even individual songs (March of the Pigs, With Teeth, The Day the World Went Away, The Perfect Drug) go from quiet, thoughtful piano to screaming, guitar-laden rage within seconds. And, as previously stated, Reznor’s vocals follow suit. But such interesting musical stylings seem to be have been lost. HtDA’s repetitive and simple drums, inactive melodies, and refusal to change chords, tempo, volume, instruments, etc., evoke nothing but nostalgia for what once was and questions about what will come.

Parasite, the requisite noise-over-clever-bass-line song, is named such as it’s the only understandable word and makes up the entirety of the chorus (if you can call it that, as this is the song which remains musically static from beginning to end). Compared to other noisy songs from Reznor’s past, such as the explosive and charged Vessel, Parasite sounds like feedback followed by a mistake that wasn’t properly edited, and has the ability to drain the life out of you unless you kill it with the next button (or delete key). Given its name, perhaps it’s a success.

BBB stands for “big black boot;” much of the song being a command to “listen to the sound” of said footwear along with such captivating lyrics as:

“Get down,
On the ground…
Stand up.
Sit back down.
[Cha cha now ya’ll.]”

As the Reznor family doesn’t yet have children I’m not sure who wrote the lyrics to this one.

A Drowning is the only song whose end I may ever hear again. It is repetitive and stagnant, but tolerable. So a 17% success rate. Rounding up.

By far the best thing to come out of this project is more of Rob Sheridan’s artwork, and the HtDA merchandise benefits because of it. The music itself is available as a free download from their website. If you have that kind of cash, $2 will get you lossless audio and the ability to download the music video for The Space Between. The same one that you can watch for free on the website, directly below the purchase link. Upon inspection, this gift horse is a lame, glue factory hopeful suffering from colic, and saddled by a rider born of convenience instead of qualification. It is just not worth your nothing.


Posted by Jack on Tue, 8 Jun 2010
tags: reviews .