« [Trent_at_the_Movies] | Main | [Ch_Ch_Ch_Ch_Changes] »

2006.05.26

[Dear_Trent: WHY?]

Dear Trent,

I don't know why I'm surprised or disappointed to see the latest posters commemorating the [With_Teeth_2006:_The_Endless] tour dates. I was pretty sure we had hit a spectacular low-water mark last time, when the new posters allowed all us fucking retards to collect all four posters and hang a giant NIN branded cock on our walls should we so desire, but these latest monstrosities?

Jesus Fucking Christ, they suck.

Seriously, Trent what in the SAM HILL are you trying to say with this shit? Is that supposed to be part of some kind of an anti-war message? If so, those posters are failing spectactularly to do anything but seem vaguely exploitative, using images of war to sell bullshit merch at a rock concert, and that's to say nothing whatsoever about how they are just fucking ham-fistedly BAD. I never thought I'd say this, but couldn't y'all have whipped up something abstract using someone's butt this time?

Historically, Nine Inch Nails has always had such uniquely gorgeous visual presentation. From the earliest days there's been a unifying sensibility to it all, and it's always been harmoniusly perfect for the records. The machinery/ribs on Pretty Hate Machine? The red and blue heat of the flames on Broken and Fixed? The feathers and wax of The Downward Spiral that suggested the tragic flight of Icarus and Daedalus? The soft beauty of the flowers, and unfocused blur on The Fragile? Bill Viola's staggeringly gorgeous images for "The Great Below" in concert? Words like "beautiful", "evocative", "subtle", and "poetic" leap to mind. At the very least, they were apt reflections of what was to be found in the work of art they complemented beautifully. Even WTC whipping boy and all around frat-tastic asshat Rob Sheridan has done some (I can't believe I'm saying this!) nice work -- the cover art and online liner notes for [With_Teeth] are beautiful, with that blend of the organic and the digitized. The threads leading from what looked like DNA blot prints into the song lyrics were an especially graceful kind of a reflection of the way that music feels like the true expression of a singular nature -- but what have we got now?

Fuck.

Trent, these latest posters are not only ugly and inartistic, they're anvil-over-the-head obvious, yet still fail to make any kind of point. They're badly executed, visually unappealing, and somehow manage to be simultaneously overly explicit and insufficiently clear. At best, they are fucking awful. What gives, man? Why are people like this creating your visual presentation? WHO'S DRIVING?

You know I love you, baby, but honestly? UGH.

Love,
Dierdre

Posted by Dierdre ~ in dear_trent | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451cae469e200d8348d775a53ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference [Dear_Trent: WHY?]:

Comments

Usually, I enjoy taking Trent's side on any debate, but even I can't come up with a coherent defense to these. Sorry, bud.

Posted by: maise | May 26, 2006 8:31:13 AM

I disagree with you on some points. Artistically, I like the posters- they're interesting and different. But I agree that they're completely wrong for NIN. You hit the nail on the head with "simultaneously overly explicit and insufficiently clear". The images come off as being political, whereas NIN's music, despite Trent's recent activism, is nearly devoid of overt political statements. Also, I think The Downward Spiral has the most perfectly fitting artwork of any album I have ever seen or heard.
I regrettably have to disagree about Rob too- while he does come off as an asshat sometimes, I think his blog is filarious. Sorry!

Posted by: RL | May 26, 2006 1:17:44 PM

Eh, some of the snark and pop culture commentary on Rob's blog(s) can be funny; his take on Devo 2.0 (or whatever the Disneyfied "new" version of Devo is called) is enjoyable. But I guess I don't really share his yen for bizarre porn. I mean, have you *seen* Population Paste? Sure, there are sarcastic comments to be made about those hentai pictures of naked dismembered anime girls, but why? Oh, and pictures of grotesquely obese naked women...hardy har. Oh, and my favorite are the pregnant women in highly uncomfortable-looking bondage photos. There are just way too many jokes on there made at the expense of women who aren't looking too happy about their lot in life. Some people don't care, and they have the right not to, I guess. Either 500-pound women in porn is funny to a person or it's not. Myself, I like to view comedy as a subversive weapon to be used against those in power. You make fun of the powers that be, and then all of a sudden they seem less intimidating.

But what's being accomplished when you've got a bunch of 20-year-old white guys pointing and laughing at the women who are acting in or being depicted in way-out-there porn? I'm sure they'd like to say that really they're making fun of the paying customers of such porn or that the inherent absurdity of some of these things is funny, but it's just not really my thing. I'm not anti-porn at all, and I'm all for snark, but I can barely look at any of the pics on there without feeling vaguely nauseated. It all just reeks of what I think Dierdre accurately described as "fratastic asshattery." And definitely there's a hint of Ye Olde Misogny, but I'm sure the websites' creators would swear up and down that they're not like *that*.

Well, Trent finds it amusing, at any rate. I'm sure a lot of average guys would. You know...men...UGH.

Posted by: maise | May 26, 2006 2:51:38 PM

Maybe they can market the a show as an "experience". It could start when you come in the door and they take your photo while you are being searched/wanded, when you buy beers, maybe puking on the concourse. Oh, that would have been handy for some dudes at the Philly show I was at. Speaking of asshats, I'll bet they don't remember anything. Of course, you can get the usual...Tshirts, hats, posters, but now add to that the 8x10 glossy front row photo exclusively from YOUR SHOW taken by Rob himself. Joy!

Posted by: Chrise | May 26, 2006 4:28:35 PM

I've only seen population paste once, when they first put it up. So I could be wrong, but I think people look at that stuff more out of morbid fascination than for laughs.

Posted by: RL | May 27, 2006 2:19:17 AM

Bah, you could create far more valuable websites. You know, like ones that obsess endlessly about Trent Reznor and involve a lot of silly haikus and melodramatic fights. ;)

Posted by: maise | May 27, 2006 8:23:07 AM

Oh, and I misspelled "misogyny" in one of the posts above, but you know what I meant.

Posted by: maise | May 27, 2006 9:53:44 AM

I dunno, Dierdre. I think Trent is using bullshit rockshow merch to sell images of war, not the other way around. The whole thing has a pungent, post-modern whiff, which may or may not be pretentious, depending upon whether or not it actually succeeds in it's aims. I'm not saying I like it, and I agree that it's both "overly explicit and insufficiently clear," but I bet our boy has a reason why he likes it. He's a clever one. I'd be interested to know what got him off on it all.

Posted by: Jane | May 28, 2006 10:30:44 PM

its. UGH!!!

Posted by: Jane | May 28, 2006 10:31:42 PM

Well, one very observant ETS reader noted that one of the explosion pics appears to be recycled from a Damageplan album cover.

So I don't know what that means. All I know is that if I were given "The Nine Inch Nails account," I'm not going to recycle shit. And I'm not going to want to use some super-craptastic font that, by its appearance on the website, does not even seem to be readable.

Okay, so you don't want your images of war for your ANTIWAR MESSAGE to be "pretty" and "appealing." I can understand that (although it almost seems like he's punishing people who just want to buy a souvenir poster..."Oh yeah, kid, you wanna buy a poster? Well, there's a WAR ON, remember?!!!"). I'm with you, Dierdre, inasmuch as I'm not sure what purpose they serve. Are pics of people in gas masks inherently "cool" and "cynical" or are these pics being used in a similar manner as those huge posters of aborted fetuses at pro-life rallies? What am I supposed to feel? A sense of "heh, heh, explosions...cool"? Or a feeling of solidarity with Trent and his political concerns? Or my portion of collective guilt? And I'm saying this as someone who is not just a bleeding-heart liberal, but a *hemorrhaging-heart* liberal. I love that Trent's political consciousness is awake and raging, but his message also needs to be coherent. For examples of ways in which he's done the antiwar-thing well, I would point to the film they were playing during "Eraser" during this tour, where images of war are included with images of the "dog eat dog" side of Mother Nature, and it just went really well with the song too. "The Hand That Feeds" = great antiwar song with a positive, motivating message behind it. "Do you wanna change it?" The new posters, which are clearly saying *something* = ?

But my main beef with these posters is that they appear amateur, as if they were given to the brand new graphic design guy who eventually ran out of time, "Shit, shit, shit, Trent's on his way to the office....ooh, let me cut up this Damageplan cover. He's antiwar, right?" Or that they were put together with no real care whatsoever, by some fucking hipster type who could give two shits about Trent or his music or even the war, but he figures that by making it as sloppy as possible, he's creating "art," and it is sold to Trent by the project manager as such.

Okay, I have officially spent way too much time focusing on these goddamn posters, but it's really intriguing to me as to why he would choose artwork that is so fugly and poorly done. You know...IMO.

Posted by: maise | May 29, 2006 6:02:05 AM

I agree with you, Maise. I think these posters are just sort of inarticulately on-th-nose. It's as if someone's just throwing shit out there to to see what sticks in a kind of "pungently postmodern" manner, but without any real POINT, and leaving the viewer to do the work of making sense of it. It just doesn't feel, as NIN visual presentation always has felt int he past, like it's being GUIDED, or that it has that very definite unifying sensibility and carefully constructed coherence that has always been the one of the most remarkable features of everything Trent has ever done.

I know Gabriel has come to believe that this aspect of NIN has never actually been guided by Trent, but that in the past, he has always hired really talented graphic artists whose sensitivity has always rendered his visual presentation with that stunning harmony, but I don't think that. I think Trent has been the driver, and that his sensibility has been the core feature of all of it... so I'm not entirely sure how to characterize what's going wrong here.

Is it that he has washed his hands of it a bit, and is focusing his energy elsewhere? Is it that he is really being all careless in his postmodern pungency? Is it that he has had less inspired collaborators, with less sensitive artistic antennae than the ones he's had in the past (I mean, BILL VIOLA?! Fuck!)? Or is it something else?

I'm inclined to suspect that it's this new social involvement -- this politicization and externalization of what has always been a very internal work of art. I think that Trent's songs have political extention, but the only one I buy as an overtly political statement is "The Hand That Feeds". I think all the others are about him. I, like you, am totally behind his turning his laser-like focus on the outside world, and can't wait to see what happens, but sometimes I wonder if he, and his work, is really at home in that realm.

Personally, I would love to have his thoughts on it all. No one ever asks the good questions.

Posted by: Dierdre | May 29, 2006 6:55:13 AM

Well, I have wondered about how his new, or at least *more overt*, social activism has affected his presentation. I can't imagine that Trent Reznor is going to have tanks and explosions and soldiers on his posters for their own sake. We know that he's anti-Bush and antiwar, but I agree with you, Dierdre and RL, that something about the way these beliefs are presented on these posters *feels* wrong for NIN.

Trent's music has always expressed his internal state in a nonspecific way that manages to feel universal. For example, even though I knew that With Teeth was "about" Trent battling his addiction, I could still point to the ways in which every song on that album applies to my own situation.

But perhaps it's a combination of having conquered those personal demons and living in uniquely troubled times that he feels a sense of responsibility as an influential artist to speak out against all of the terrible things that are being perpetrated by our government. I really commend that impulse in him because it cannot be denied that he is revered among a *lot* of people and that his opinion is respected. He has the opportunity to make a real impact. So, okay, he's going to incorporate more political imagery during his performances. Fine. But is he successful?

Well, who is the intended audience for his message? The 20- and 30-somethings who have been following his career for years? 17-year-old boys who liked "The Hand that Feeds" on the radio? (Not to be scornful of them...everyone has to start somewhere.) His more perceptive fans or...uh...the less articulate and introspective ones who are all over the internet? The fans who are already activists or politically conscious? Or those who have never really thought outside their own personal spheres before?

I mean, let's say Trent is targeting the 17-year-old boy who has up til now been focused primarily on his social status at school and the latest X-Box game. He thinks NIN rocks but hasn't really paid attention to the lyrics. So Trent can do all sorts of things to try to get this kid's attention, and if he succeeds, that will be wonderful, but I think that those attention-getting devices would necessarily be less sophisticated than what he would use addressing 30-year-olds who have been a little more engaged with the outside world for a while.

I think there's a part of me that yearns for Trent to speak to...well...me. "Trent, dahling, I *know* that global warming is a problem, and I'm aware that we're at war. Tell me more about what you think about it all. You know...details."

Maybe he's not terribly comfortable talking details in regard to these huge issues. Or maybe he's not sure where it should all fit into his music. There is a point where proselytizing becomes annoying, and he's clearly aware of that. I like that he doesn't try to foist an opinion on anyone and encourages people to think for themselves. But I wouldn't mind him being more expressive and talking up to his audience rather than (perhaps inadvertently) talking down.


Posted by: maise | May 29, 2006 8:03:31 AM

Amen, Maise. I have felt for a long time that there has been a new trend in the overall presentation of NIN that does not really address those of us who have been listening for a long time, and aren't really young people. I think Trent is pretty happy that his record is bringing in "the kids", and I'm happy for him, because it means that his music will have a growing audience, and his career will have longevity and pertinence that it wouldn't have if he were playing for all of us longtime, older listeners, but at the same time, it feels to me like there's been a conscious effort to limit the complexity of things.

Now, when I suggest that something is being limited, or dumbed-down, I do not meant o imply that his MUSIC is dumbed down, or that the actual WORK OF ART is less intelligent, sensitive and brilliant than it always has been, but in the past, I felt like Trent was trying to speak to people like him, on an equal level, whereas now I think he is talking down to the kids... when he does actually talk, which is rare. I agree with you that it's great that when he does say something explicit, that he usually suggests that people read something, or see a movie, or take an interest in some issue.

On the whole, I think his instincts are great, and I love what he's saying, but at the same time, I think he's being simultaneously overly crafty about addressing a specific segment of his audience, and not crafty enough for the rest of us.

That, and I think he's not terribly comfortable with actually BEING POLITICAL in his work.

But, those are just my theories...

Posted by: Jane | May 29, 2006 10:48:31 AM

All excellent points, Jane. I think Trent is fairly reticent anyway, and who could blame him? Every third word coming out of a celebrity's mouth tends to be analyzed to death, and uh...check me out analyzing Trent to death!

But anyway, I think too that his naturally terse writing style prevents him from tackling the finer nuances of various issues. It's why I get so excited when he gets all worked up about something to the point of writing multiple paragraphs. Usually that only happens when some fan pisses him off, though.

Posted by: maise | May 29, 2006 7:06:48 PM

Speaking of packaging and art, I have to admit I love the packaging for the new Tool album. I'm geeking out over all the 3-D pictures. I've totally got a headache now, but that was pretty damn cool for the average CD case.

Posted by: maise | May 29, 2006 8:00:19 PM

Maise, I agree that in some ways, Trent is reticent. In other ways, he totally isn't. When he talks in interviews, I think it's often surprising what he will say about himself. At the same time, I think he is reticent where it counts, and that's in anything that has to do with being overly explicit about the details that led to his work in some specific way.

I don't think these political images have a goddamned thing to do with what made him write those songs (with the obvious exception of "The Hand That Feeds"), but at the same time, if he can get the kids riled up to think about the ways in which our current political bent is fucking us FOREVER, that would be terrific, and I guess it's ok with me if it doesn't feel like he's talking to me when he does it. I still feel like he's talking to me with his music, and that's what matters.

Trent's reticence and terse writing style, matched with the more elaborate eloquence of his music and emotional delivery, allows him to be deeply personal without locking you, as the listener, out of the emotion with too many explicit details. He knows how to work a little bit of ambiguity harder than anyone in rock music. I think that works for him when he's sure of what he's doing, and he's good at expressing HIMSELF.

I know he didn't doctor up these posters personally, but he gave them the thumb's up, and in light of that, I can't help feeling that he is simply much less adept at making that ambiguity work for him on a political, and maybe even on a visual level. My sense is that, when he expresses his sense of himself musically, there is a cohesive picture in his mind that gives his "voice" its sureness and power, but that visual art and explicit political statements aren't really his field.

I think he has a kind of a difficult fine line to walk, and he's still working out the details.

Posted by: Jane | May 30, 2006 2:12:12 AM

Yeah, obviously he had to green-light these posters, so I'm hoping that he just sincerely liked them for whatever reasons that I strongly disagree with, as opposed to having been sold on them against his better instincts.

I have no problem with Trent leaning on other people for the visual aspect of things. (I know that I'm not a visually-oriented person...I'm all verbal.) I don't expect him to personally draw all the posters and install all the lights and bake all the cookies for everyone in the band.

It's just too bad that these posters are fugly as all hell and don't really convey a strong message, politically or artistically.

Posted by: maise | May 30, 2006 9:34:23 AM

Just for the sake of argument, I have to point out that it's possible that Trent asked for a war theme and that he is in total control of and knows exactly what he is doing with the visual aspects, and we are all theorizing to the contrary because we don't like it. (I don't believe that though.)

Posted by: RL | May 30, 2006 2:29:14 PM

No, I will concede that just because I think that they are aesthetic and symbolic horrors doesn't mean that Trent does. In fact, seeing as they are the official posters, odds are pretty high that he likes them quite a bit. But I think we've thrown out quite a few reasons that they're not quite doing the job...and that it's not entirely clear (at least to us) what job they're supposed to be doing, other than the fact that there *is* a war on, and if you know anything about Trent's beliefs as of late, you know that he's against it. So working from that basis, they are clearly intended to be an antiwar statement, but beyond that, what they are trying to say is anyone's guess. Perhaps these posters will be tied more closely to some of the visual elements of the show, and maybe it will all make sense at the concert, but I certainly hope not...I really don't want to see *more* of those kinds of visuals.

Posted by: maise | May 30, 2006 3:02:37 PM

RL, just for the sake of argument, I'll throw it out there to say that what Trent intends to do, and what he's successful at doing are two different things, and they always have been. I have no doubt that his iron clad fist is all over this whole thing -- I'm not suggesting that he has fully relinquished control -- what I'm saying is that there are times when his intentions and strengths come together, and times when they don't.

And, if Trent knows exactly what he's about with all this, then I do wish he would explain it to the rest of us, because I agree with Maise -- I can connect the dots he's drawn, and it makes some kind of sense, but it has no individual character, and no focused potency, and that's a shame, because generally speaking, I'd say that Trent Reznor is all about focused potency.

Posted by: Jane | May 30, 2006 10:20:56 PM

I was mostly addressing the talk that Trent's unsure of himself. Jane, I agree with both of your points.

Posted by: RL | May 31, 2006 1:13:04 AM

You know what I wonder? Why is it that Nine Inch Nails fans like to have such an adversarial relationship with their so-called hero? Why does this stupid poster thing bother anyone? Who gives a fuck if you don't like it?

I'm sure Trent doesn't.

Posted by: Fuck Off | Jun 1, 2006 3:16:25 AM

Well, it's interesting, Fuck Off, that you think that fans would have to agree wholeheartedly with every single decision that Trent makes. Most of the time, I'm pleased as punch with whatever he does. That's why I'm a fan. But I'm not some fucking sycophant. If we're debating an issue, I'll state my honest opinion. And do I care if Trent cares what I think? Not really. And your opinion matters even less.

If you can't overanalyze some posters here, where can you?

Posted by: maise | Jun 1, 2006 6:49:29 AM

Fuck off, you want to know "who gives a fuck?"I'll tell ya, the people who stand to make a profit from the sales of these posters, that's who. it's true many NIN fans are neurotic about collecting every single little thing with a NIN logo on it, but I, for one, am not going to hang a poster on my wall with G.I. Joes on it. It just doesn't appeal to me, aesthetically speaking.

Just wait and see if Trent hires the same company to do the posters for future tours. Something tells me the answer to that will be a big emphatic NO.

Posted by: BD | Jun 1, 2006 12:28:26 PM

Fuck off, Fuck Off. Actually appreciating a work of art doesn't mean swallowing it whole without any consideration as to whether or not its elements are working out. If you want to argue that Trent's work of art doesn't include these posters, I am going to tell you that it does, and that it's an element that has been MUCH better realized by him than it is now.

Is it the end of the world? Obviously not, but if you don't give a fuck, then this clearly isn't the website for you.

Posted by: Jane | Jun 1, 2006 11:41:30 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.