It was announced today that Trent Reznor has decided to get Nine Inch Nails back together and play a whole mess of show later this year. However, “back together” is a fairly relative term when it comes to NIN. As of yesterday, there had been 21 different fellas who’ve played in the band with Reznor over the years, and today we’re getting the inclusion of 3 more. This has always been the design of the band, and for a sound that is essentially an industrialized military attack formulated in Reznor’s mind, it’s always worked quite well. I had never been the biggest fan of the band, but after seeing one of their last gigs at Bonnaroo in 2009 I was blown the fuck away. I can only imagine what the band will sound like now – bringing in the incomparable Adrian Belew from King Crismon on guitar? That’s just fucking nuts. Not only can the dude shred your living face off, but if you’ve ever seen videos of him playing with the Talking Heads then you know he’s also a brute force of a living rhythm machine. And then he’s also added Eric Avery, the bass player from Jane’s Addiction? Well, hot damn – this just became the top must-see band of 2013. But what’s interesting about all this, is that Reznor has this aura that’s akin to a jazz master – where you praise the main artist so much that you know that any incarnation of a band he’s going to hit the road with will be fucking amazing. There’s only 3 other current rock artists who also have the gall to do this, each with different levels of audience acceptance and success.
1) Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses - Appetite for Destruction is arguably one of the greatest rock albums ever made, but not once did somebody ever hear it and say, “Ahh this backing band really doesn’t click with the singer.” I mean, c’mon, everybody has air-guitarred a Slash solo at some point. GNR was a fucking band above all bands – Izzy, Duff – even that junkie on drums – Axl’s dumbass move to think that he’s the only that anybody cares about in that band has severely hurt his street-cred over the years. If the original lineup got back together, they could playing arenas. Literally, they could see upwards of 100,000 tickets a show in various locales across the nation… and whole world. One of the worst lineup changes in the history of music.
2) James Mercer and The Shins - I really like the Shins, and their sound has been an enormous influence on the indie-world over the past decade. And while Mercer’s songs can at times be surprisingly complex, it’s never really been a band that you go see for a crazy guitar solo or even for any of the instrumental talent of the band. That being said, the band has always been great, and Mercer’s decision to constantly change the lineup over the years seems to be solely based on him making it clear that it’s his band and his band alone. Thus, in this lineup change situation, the moves have never really effected the quality of the music, but they have made even the most avid fan wonder the askew dimensions of Mercer’s introverted ego.
3) Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins - In the early 90′s, the Pumpkins seemed like such a definitive picture of a full band. Sure, Corgan was the frontman, but the Eastern smile of James Iha on guitar and the dark, sultriness of D’arcy Elizabeth Wretzky on bass seemed like equally defining pieces of the puzzle. When inter-band bickering brought them to a split in 2000, it was a bummer, but it seemed to acknowledge that the band couldn’t continue without one another. Billy went on to do Zwan and some other solo shit, and things seemed cool. That is until 2005, when Corgan took out those huge ads in the Chicago newspapers saying he wanted to reunite the band. Sure the drummer came back, but Iha and Wretzky were no-shows. In my mind, that’s not a reunion, but the move of a guy who’s failing in his solo endeavors and in need of using his past notoriety to sell some albums. I had waning respect for Corgan already, but that seemed to make me lose it all. They’ve released 3 albums since then, one of which people say is actually pretty good – but I decided a while ago to not give a fuck.
Oh well – fame, music, and money always have a great way of fucking each other over.