My husband and I have a peculiar metric for some art we just don’t like. It isn’t that it’s bad, exactly. It’s that it’s Chronicles of Riddick bad.
Making this extra peculiar is that I haven’t seen Chronicles of Riddick. However, I did hear quite a bit about it after my husband saw it. Seriously, lots. He ranted for days, vaguely at first but zeroing in eventually on what had bothered him.
Finally, he said, “It didn’t bother me so much that it wasn’t good. I could have just sat back and enjoyed the badness if that were the case. But every time I started to think, ‘Okay, this is just going to suck,’ they’d introduce something promising and get my hopes up. Then they wouldn’t do anything with it.”
We all know that kind of bad. It’s when you, as an amateur sitting in the audience, have to shout, “No, no no! Turn left, you idiot!” You can see the rails and watch the plot go right off them. It’s Stargate Atlantis bad. It’s Lost bad. It’s Star Wars Episode 3 bad. In my case, it’s Nine Inch Nails bad.
I want to like Nine Inch Nails, especially since my husband’s a fan. Failing that, I want to ignore it. But it won’t let me do either.
I’m big on lyrics, and Reznor’s just aren’t up to my standards. They’re pedestrian where they should be insightful or at least clever. Except for that occasional phrase that catches my attention against my will. Then he goes right back to substituting profanity for provocation. Blah, blah.
The same thing happens with the arrangements, except this time they start out interesting. Good musicians, good hooks, well executed. But rather than stringing the good hooks together or exploring variations on them, they give me repetition. Sometimes, I get repetition with noise. Sometimes, the hook goes away, and I’m left with just the noise. Not that noise is bad. It just isn’t music unless you do something with it.
Even more frustrating, I know that they can put it all together and make it work. The one song I like is “Piggy.” There’s noise. There’s interesting musicianship with variations to keep it interesting. There’s not a lot in the way of lyrics. But it all works together. It’s good.
Then the next song comes on and squanders all the potential again. “Ha, ha,” it says, “Made you look. Made you hope.”
That kind of bad.