The members of Showbread would be proud and perhaps even a little envious of this fact: last night I went and saw Nine Inch Nails on their Tension tour here in DC. Godspeed You! Black Emperor opened and I was sorely disappointed with their live set. No matter how good they are on their albums, and considering some of their songs exceed 20+ minutes, they didn’t have enough set time – they only played 40 minutes – in order to develop and properly sustain their songs. It was a huge bummer, actually.
Trent Reznor brought along an 8-piece band, including two female backup singers (!) for 24 songs at just under two hours. Easy top 5 all-time show for me, especially getting to hear “Somewhat Damaged” live. Closing with “Hurt” wasn’t the best way to go out, but what do I know.
I bring up the fact that I saw NIN for the 3rd time because of how influential they have been on Showbread’s style. It’s been wrought with the heavy-handed touches of Reznor and Dennis Lyxzén, dating all the way back to the Bread’s original EPs, and even down to their stage attire.
But hey, at least they aimed high. Rezzy is one, for me, the most important musician of my generation. Meanwhile, Lyxzén had an integral role in creating the greatest punk record of the last 25 years.
One of the more elusive Reznor collaborators was David Bowie. They toured together when The Downward Spiral LINK came out, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. Bowie teamed with Reznor on “I’m Afraid of Americans,” arguably the best non-album NIN song.
I feel comfortable saying that Bowie’s influence on music is as great or greater even than the most overrated band of all time, The Beatles. The Thin White Duke was a chameleon with a deft touch, slipping in and out of genres with ease and grace.
Now put Bowie, Reznor and Lyxzén in a blender (figuratively speaking, please), mash one of the buttons that are somehow differentiated from one another, pray to the gods of the multiverse, and behold Cancer, the musical partner to the Showbread movie of the same name (which is still in production almost two years after being funded on Kickstarter).
From what the group has said, the soundtrack to the as-yet unreleased sci-fi flick sheds light and provides context for some of the film’s characters and plot points. In that light, it’s difficult to review or talk about at length because I’m not real sure I understand what’s going on even based on the small amount of information I was able to glean from the band’s description.
What I can tell you though, is that Cancer is a partial return to the shrieking madness that Showbread abandoned on the record that precedes this one, Who Can Know It? LINK My opinion on WCKI? probably won’t shift much over time, as I think it’s the low point in their catalogue because it’s such a stark departure from their previous releases.
It’s almost unfair to pass a judgment on tracks like “Germ Cell Tumor” and the closers “You Will Die in a Prison” and “You Will Not Die in a Prison” without the lens of context. I’m sure in that case, they would make more sense. From a thematic perspective, they’re puzzling but intriguing. From a musical perspective, they’re just alright.
Meanwhile, the opening trio of “I’m Afraid That I’m Me,” “Sex With Strangers” and “Anarchy!” will lead listeners to believe that the entirety of the album is as aggressive and ‘yelly’ as tracks one through three.
I’d venture to say that I’m more liable to come around to Cancer once the movie for which this album serves as the soundtrack is released. Until then, it’s sort of messy and unbalanced in the raw rock vein the band has come to be known for.
From Cancer, this is “I’m Afraid That I’m Me” –
Standout tracks: “I’m Afraid That I’m Me,” “Sex With Strangers” and “Anarchy!”
Weakest track: “Two-Headed Monster”
RIYL: Movie soundtracks, or those old children’s books you had to follow along with using the cassette tapes that were included.