Thursday, January 8, 2009

On the Order of Albums

Let It Be kinda sucked. And not just because Phil Spector messed it up, the song craft was kind of weak. I say this just to indicate that if one wanted to build up the Beatles to the ultimate peak, they probably would have closed things out with Sgt. Pepper or Abbey Road (my personal preference).

I got to thinking a little while ago about the career progression of Nine Inch Nails, mainly because the past couple of years, Mr. Reznor has released three albums, which is enough new material to make one ponder some what ifs. First, what if he had been as prolific during the late '90s as he is right now. Second, what if the orders had emerged in a different order.

For the Nine Inch Nails catalog, I would argue everything builds up to The Fragile, which is still a fantastic album, no matter what people say. You could also argue that Year Zero, which I like less musically, was a more fully realized 360 sort of concept album, or album concept. Year Zero was a lot bigger than just the piece of plastic, and it's a shame it came so late in the game that only the diehard fans were ready to follow where Trent led. If you want the fuller story check it out on the 'pedia.

And the two most recent albums make things even more interesting, a double instrumental disc and quick and dirty "regular" album, that to my mind feels a lot like a greatest hits, or certainly the best possible introduction to the band.

So then the question is, if I had structured the albums for maximum impact, how would I build things. And for the sake of argument, I'm not as interested in the career arc with an equal fall for the earlier rise, I'm just less interested in shaping how a band lost their groove.

So here we go, in order chronologically:

Pretty Hate Machine - Still gotta start from the beginning
Broken EP - This stays where it is but would be a great one-two punch with . . .
The Slip - An album loaded with great live songs, but with hints of a broader sound
With Teeth - One of the less cohesive albums, but a lot better than people give it credit for
The Downward Spiral - One of Reznor's bigger statement and something that still fits in the middle of his career
Year Zero - A darker album, and more conceptually cohesive the kind of album that would have been huge coming right after Spiral
The Fragile - The masterpiece, the culmination of all that came before
Ghost I-IV - A collection of pieces that hint at the many directions Trent could go, as well as less intense companion to The Fragile

Next up I'd like to tackle Beck, and see what would have happened with a different path.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Beck is hard though, isn't he? The records are all so different, I think it's hard to put them in a progression.