Forget Depeche Mode and forget the Pet Shop Boys - the future of synthesized pop music is here and its name is industrial pop.
The musical style popularized by U.S. band Ministry and European trio Nitzer Ebb is beginning to hit it big stateside, and one of this country's finest examples of the form is also one of its finest live acts.Nine-Inch Nails was for much of its debut album solely the effort of New York artist Trent Reznor (supported by a variety of synthesized sounds). Live, though, the band is so much more, as Reznor gets able assistance from industrial veterans such as keyboardist Lee Marrs and drummer Jeff Ward (Ministry, Revolting Cocks and Lard).
However, despite such influential help, Reznor doesn't tread heavily in the footsteps of the industrial giants that broke onto the music scene in the late 80s. Reznor's brand of pop music is more personal, emotional and intense than some other standards of the form.
For example, compare two songs from his "Pretty Hate Machine" album - the smash single "Head Like a Hole" and "That's What I Get" - both of which were spectacular in concert.
The first features lyrics one would typically associate with the best of other industrial thrash material: "Head like a hole/Black as your soul/I'd rather die than give you control/Bow down before the one you serve/You're going to get what you deserve."
The other, however, is a fine piece of pop angst that might have been expected out such punk-pop masters as the Buzzcocks: "How could you turn us into this?/After you just taught me how to kiss you/I told you I'd never say goodbye/Now I'm slipping on the tears you made me cry/That's what I get."
In particular, that latter was mesmerizing live, especially with Marrs' overwhelming synthesized bass lines, which were almost as powerful as a quaking fault line.
Reznor's magnetic stage persona contributed as well. Taking cues from such late 60's rock stars as Jim Morrison, Reznor strutted, writhed and swung his way around stage (on a leather thong attached to one of the Coliseum's support chains), even while female fans were throwing him to the floor in mock ecstasy (as during "That's What I Get"). Reznor even intentionally kicked guitarist Richard Patrick into the crowd in a "let's-get-to-know-one-another" gesture.
Even though the concert was short - since in addition to the album's 10 tracks, Reznor only had a super rendition of Queen's "Get Down, Make Love" to rely on for concert material - it was certainly sweet.
Opening the show was veteran trio Die Warzau, which also plays a more commercially viable form of industrial pop. Despite playing a more funky hybrid of the musical style, the fact that the band relies so heavily on taped and synthesized support for its songs strikes me as a little dishonest and disappointing.
Although some songs in the band's set did get some big reactions, particularly "It's Only Money After All" and the droning "Land of the Free," the band is missing the menace of a Ministry and after awhile becomes monotonous.