Soundtrack 01/09/2007 – The Downward Spiral

Every decade or so a CD comes out that kind of grabs a group of people and speaks so intimately to them it becomes a part of their souls. Won’t Get Fooled Again, Goat’s Head Soup, Revolver, Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, Led Zeppelin IV, The Joshua Tree, Appetite for Destruction, The Black Album, all of these have in some level or another become iconic to people and spoke to the fans of the albums in ways that no other media could. That album for me was the Downward Spiral.

The mid 90’s were both a great and terrible time for me. I was coasting along in a sea of music and pot and partying and living life a bit on the edge. I was fighting with angst and depression and joy and experimentation all at the same time, and really had no defined goals. I knew people into all kinds of crazy shit, from BDSM to piercings and body mods to hard drugs and self destruction to art and spirituality; it was a very kind of hippy bohemian time and I don’t think I’d change it if I had the opportunity as I learned alot about a lot of different things I hadn’t been exposed to before. I flitted on the fringes of all these lifestyles without really jumping in too deep. The WestEnd of Vancouver was a center point for a lot of community based marginalized groups, and it created a very kind of open atmosphere. I guess it still is, but alot more crystal meth has moved into that neighbourhood in the past few years and it’s a bit uglier. Or maybe I just got older and less willing to keep the blinders on.

I probably would have had an opportunity to float lazily down the spiral myself if it wasn’t for a few stabilizing influences… I was underemployed and enjoying all these wacky experiences, I had very little money but no debt, I lived on pasta and protein powder and daily hard workouts (heh believe it or not I was a total gym rat at the time). It was an incredibly creative time…my roommates were listening to alot of Tom Waits and John Frusciante’s solo album that he recorded while he was ridding himself of his demons and other stuff that was new to me. We made incredible amounts of music, and occasionally a four track recording from that time will pop out and we’ll listen to it and go…”holy shit where’d that come from?” Not that any of it is great or commercial and sellable, just super creative left of center stuff. Darrin played a song for me not too long ago that I had recorded at that time that was basically 8 vocal tracks, just me, using a digital delay and the 4 track recorder making all these wierd digieridoo parts and chirps and sound effects with my voice and this incredibly pained melody line over top…like Bobby McFerrin in a massive depression and on acid. Er…without the vocal talent… I didn’t even remember making it, but it sounds pretty cool now. I wish I had some of those tapes still.

Anyways, the other rock at that time for me was The Downward Spiral. From that first spanking-as-snare-drum hit, I was completely hooked. Lyrically, I was living virtually everything on that album except the heroin abuse. I was looking into the spiral every day, wondering if I should jump or not. I didn’t, of course… I was truly getting the lyrics, my own questions about love and god and life and death were asked by Trent Reznor and he did it with the same kind of frustration I felt. Heck, “I Do Not Want This” had a line I could have written myself “I…am made of clay…I fear I’m the only one who thinks this way” (lol). I know that wasn’t what the line meant, but that’s the joy of music…it speaks to individuals individually hehe. The album was masterfully crafted, and as a complete entity I think only The Wall comes close. That repeating melodic theme that first really pops out in the ending of Closer but is actually interspersed throughout the disc is in itself an awesome and emotive bit, and by the time that big ending note of “Hurt” fades out I was usually worn out emotionally from it. It’s hard to explain.

Anyways, I’m getting nostalgic. At the end of the day, thanks to Trent Reznor for making an album that really kind of got me thru a time in my life and for giving me a huge influence. We won’t talk much about my drunken attempt to sing “Closer” at a Karaoke bar in rural New Jersey a few months back, but let’s just say that I pretty much woulda made reznor mad at my butchering.

It’s hard to explain to someone who isn’t affected by music this way the power that Downward Spiral had on me during that time, but it was one of those. For my birthday last year a friend gave me the DVD-Audio special edition re-release and I occasionally throw the CD side on the CD player (I don’t have a DVD Audio capable reciever at this point). I put it on last night for a while and (as it does every time) it took me back to that point in my life. It’s not really possible for my mind to go to the places it did back then when I listen as I’m in a completely different place myself, but I can still kind of revisit an exciting time. Definitely one of my desert island albums.


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