Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review: How to Destroy Angels

Here's my fundamental problem with Christianity: the math jut doesn't add up.
Once you accept the notion of an omnipotent, eternal power, you have to accept that the nature of eternity eclipses everything else. A infinite god simply can't create something that exists outside of itself so, consequently, everything that exists is a part of that same being. If you accept that, then concepts like good, evil, free will and individuality become meaningless.

These are the thoughts I was entertaining while listening to How to Destroy Angels, a new musical project launched by Trent Reznor. Like Jack White, Reznor appears to have grown bored with the music that pays his bills and seems to have something to prove to the world. What he doesn't seem to realize is that it's almost impossible to create something that doesn't contain some essential — and visible — part of you.

Jack White has no less than three bands with record deals: The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, all of which kinda sound like each other. The further down the line White took these projects, the more efforts he had to take to mask his creative voice. But nothing he's done so far really hides his input into these bands, though. Even putting a female lead singer out front and handing his guitar to someone else has done little to disguise his presence in The Dead Weather. They still kinda sound like The White Stripes.

Reznor has taken a similar step in How to Destroy Angels by turning over vocals to his wife Mariqueen Maandig. And, as with The Dead Weather, the result sounds pretty much like what you'd expect from Trent Reznor. Only a little less interesting. Reznor's got a terrific dramatic range (even if most of the emotions he excels at sharing are a little bleak) but I'm not getting that sense of range from Maandig on How to Destroy Angels' first EP. While she's got a pleasant voice, it never veers too far in any one direction.

But the fault isn't really with Maandig; it's with Reznor's songs. The album hums along at a hypnotic pace and doesn't require much more from her than the average trance tune would. The EP — which you can download from the band's website for free — seems more like the beginning of an idea than like an idea, itself.

I'm far from convinced that How to Destroy Angels will be anything other than an interesting detour on Reznor's career path. While it might sound like I think this project is a wasted effort, that's not really the case. My favorite artists are the ones who sometimes knock off the dust and try new things. If I take issue with anything it's with the pretension that How to Destroy Angels is not a Trent Reznor album. Because, from the album's first note, it clearly is.

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