Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pop Music Ponderings vol. 1: Nine Inch Nails

The early work of Nine Inch Nails is pervaded with atheism, and explicit rejection of traditional morality. The interlude into Job last week was because "Terrible Lie" is a condensed version of Job's lament:
Hey, God
Why are you doing this to me?
Am I not living up to what I'm supposed to be?
Why am I seething with this animosity?
Hey, God
I think you owe me a great big apology.
The parallel is a fairly close one: "I have done nothing wrong. So why does everything suck so much?" But the difference is that instead of waiting for an answer, Trent Reznor just abandons God, and goes off in search of something else redeeming.

For the most part, that something else is sex. In "Sanctified" he says, "If she says give it all I'll give everything to her / I am justified, I am purified, I am sanctified inside you." In the well-known "Closer" he says, "I want to fuck you like an animal... you get me closer to God."

The most elaborate statement, though, is in "Suck":
She makes it sweeter than the sun
I get too tight I come undone
I bow my head to confess
The temple walls are made of flesh
Runs up my arms 'til I'm on track
Itches my skin right off of my back
I'll heal your wounds, I'll set you free
I'm Jesus Christ on Ecstacy
There are not many other examples, because honestly, the metaphor can only go so far, and be used so many times. But it's just enough to form a kind of ideological statement: "As far as I can tell, everything I have been told about God is bullshit. The only thing that makes me feel the way I'm told God should make me feel... is sex. So I am going to replace religion with sex."

To get slightly pretentious for a moment, this is the postmodern problem of religion: our culture is heavily influenced by Western Christianity, and pervaded with its symbolism. If you don't believe in God, then there are these great structures of symbolism that point to nothing. So... what if you think of something else for them to point to? You don't have to make it point to something... but boy, don't you want to?