June 13, 2023

I Ain't 'Fraid of Reviewin' No Ghosts V & VI

Hey everyone! Your fourth-favorite unpaid freelance NIN-themed humorist who peaked over two decades ago is back once again to proffer some more unsolicited opinions on the creative output of Michael Trent Reznor and Michael Atticus Ross. I know it's been a minute since I tackled whatever that last thing was, but unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances (a legal term for "I didn't feel like it"), I was unable to grace your glowing rectangles with more of my brand of recycled idiocy until now. But I know you're cool and you understand. Unlike Ministry fans, bunch of jerks.

Right now you might be thinking, "Meathead, what is wrong with you? You've already covered every single thing that NIN has done, ever. What else is there to talk about? Please go away." Sure, if you're like most people, you probably assume that Trent packed up and moved to Iceland after those three EPs, never to be heard from again, and so you might as well resign yourself to listening to Paul McCartney & Wings for the rest of your life. Don't feel bad; it's a very common belief that I once subscribed to myself. Don't you think I know what it's like to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, hyperventilating to the rhythm of the chorus from "Jet" that's playing on an endless loop inside your head? Could Hell possibly be worse than that?

Well, I'm here to tell you that you don't need to suffer any longer, or at least not for a little while. Believe it or not, our boys actually released not one, but two albums back in 2020, during that time when we were allowed to not go outside for months. And what's more, these songs are literally impossible to get stuck in your head! Suck on that, McCartney!

On Thursday, March 26, 2020, Trent and his platonic life partner Atticus released Ghosts V: Minecraft Music and Ghosts VI: Big Man With a Piano. Like 2008's free-and-worth-every-penny The Slip, these albums were provided gratis as a show of solidarity with all us regular folks during the scary and uncertain early days of COVID-19. Honestly, seeing how the lockdown began in the U.S. less than two weeks prior, it's pretty impressive that they somehow managed to compose, record, mix and master two albums in such a short period of time. I guess you have more time to spend in the studio when you're Instacarting all your groceries. Sure, some actual cover art that couldn't be easily replicated in under a minute with Microsoft Word might have been nice, but beggars can't be choosers, right? But seriously though, come on.

I had briefly entertained the idea of pulling a Peter Jackson and stretching this update into separate reviews for each album, but to borrow from the immortal words of Kimberly "Sweet Brown" Wilkins: "Ain't nobody got time for that." Frankly, I can't even imagine doing a track-by-track breakdown of these things, as I have for previous releases. Like, am I seriously supposed to sit down and write three whole paragraphs about "So Tired"? As if.

That's not to say the music is bad. Or all bad. You can tell the guys really applied themselves during the week or so they spent making it. But it's not for everyone. If you're looking for lots of cool-sounding buzzsaw guitars, noisy pulsing synths, or Trent delivering his iconic trademark phrase "Get ready to get Nine Inch Nailed, muthafuckazzz," look elsewhere. Ghosts V and Ghosts VI are Very Serious Albums, and we should not joke about them, just as with 9/11, the Holocaust, or Jared Leto. As such, there will be none of that Larry, Darryl and Darryl shit this time. I'll save that for the next weird EP, score for a film about anthropomorphic turtles, or whatever else might be coming down the NIN pipeline. But this is serious.

Ghosts V: Minecraft Music is, while admittedly not anything that should be played within ten miles of a party, still arguably the less depressing of the two. If you like Godspeed You! Black Emperor but think they're just a little too jaunty and upbeat and wish they'd take it down a notch, Ghosts V is the perfect album for you. It's got all the things you love about Nine Inch Nails but none of that pesky stuff like "words," "drums," or "song structure." And yes, I have used it as an accompaniment to my adventures in Minecraft, and tracks like "Your Touch" and "Awitha Faitha" (sorry, not sorry) really do pair well with digging for redstone and breeding cows. Just in case anyone doubts Trent and Atticus are (or at least were in 2020) not yet technically too old to rock, there is about one minute in the closing track "Still Right Here" where they really cut loose, presumably as a little treat for those superfans who managed to stick it out and not fall asleep. It's the perfect soundtrack for when you're hauling ass to get away from a creeper.

Ghosts VI: Big Man With a Piano is basically Ghosts V after going cold turkey off Lexapro for two weeks. Much of the same aural NyQuil (in a good way, of course!) as its predecessor but with more of that patented Reznor sense of unease, and some real "Shit Mirror"-tier bad-mood song titles, providing a sharp contrast to the syrupy, "no, I love YOU more" titles of Ghosts V. Even the album's cover is as black as, say, one's soul. This is the one I say is my favorite around all my cool friends. (Just kidding. I don't tell any of my cool friends I listen to Nine Inch Nails.)

A few random Ghosts VI observations:

I've never really been a big waltz guy. Other than "Take This Waltz" by Leonard Cohen, and Christoph Waltz, I can't think of any other waltzes that I particularly enjoy. But "The Worriment Waltz" is actually pretty decent, as far as waltzes go. 3/4 time and everything! It's just so strange it never caught on as the new teen dance sensation. Wrong century, I guess.

"Run Like Hell" is, I'm pretty sure, like 75-80 percent sure, not a Pink Floyd cover. Good thing Roger Waters never listens to Trent's music, otherwise he'd probably try to sue anyway.

"When It Happens (Don't Mind Me)" should have been called "The Headache Song," because it gives me a headache. I do mind, actually.

Whose genius idea was it to make a "song" that's just two and a half minutes of a car engine not turning over? Was it you, Atticus? It's okay, you can tell me. I won't be mad.

"Temp Fix" - Try Flex Tape®. Seriously, it fixes anything. You're welcome.

"Turn This Off Please" - You got it!

So… yeah. there's not a hell of a whole lot else to talk about at this point. There are no badly conjugated lyrics or weird grunts to comment on, so what's left? Do the physical copies come with scratch-and-sniff stickers or a petrified stick of gum? It was certainly very sweet and thoughtful of them to give us all this free music (plus two and a half bonus minutes of Atticus trying in vain to start his 1993 Ford Festiva in the Costco parking lot) to help us get through the COVID pandemic. It almost makes me look forward to the next worldwide health crisis, at which time I assume we'll get Ghosts VII: Osteoporosis and Ghosts VIII: Mouth Harp Madness.

In the meantime, feel free to reach out if there's a topic that you feel I've neglected and needs written about, or if you want to finally apologize for making "Running." Bye for now!


EDIT: Whoops, I almost forgot! Here's that video for "Everything" - sorry it's a little late.