String Quartet Tribute
The String Quartet Tribute to Nine Inch Nails
Tribute albums annoy the hell out of me, perhaps because if I like a band enough to listen to their tribute CD, I'll almost certainly think that the covers on a tribute record are vastly inferior with no individualistic merit. And most of the time, the tracks really are -- poorly recorded and rearranged (if arranged at all), mind-numbingly boring and shoddily packaged together with tacky cover art. So I approached a tribute to Nine Inch Nails with trepidation and my cynicism well and truly intact.
I was pleasantly surprised. The brainchild of Eric Gorfain (Violin 1, arrangements and production), The String Quartet Tribute is an invigorating musical experience. Gorfain tends to stick close to the melody lines of the genuine NIN tracks, which is a shame when the calibre and freshness of his arrangements is taken into account. More radical melodic reworkings of some of these songs would have allowed them to stand apart from the originals and avoid moments such as the opening of "Closer," in which subtle rhythmic experimentation makes the strictly-followed vocal line grate.
The quartet is crisp and cohesive, with a great deal of proficiency on display from everyone. The clarity and separation of the recording is excellent. A slightly more vibrant sound would have been beneficial in some places, but to record solo strings and make the result sound intimate is enough of an achievement to overshadow any other production shortcomings.
Standouts are "Piggy" (I can't tolerate the original, which says something for the tribute version), "The Fragile," and "Something I Can Never Have." Reworking "Into The Void" was an interesting choice when one considers that a string line dominates the original anyway. The first minute was "What is the point of this?" territory for me, until the arrangement expanded nicely and I was impressed again.
If you're a fan and avoid being any more hostile than me when you approach this disc, you'll take away a refreshing look at some of NIN's repertoire. Plus, you get to play the "Why didn't they cover that song?" game, which is fun in itself, and there's sure to be at least one selection on here that you'll hate, fueling much ideal-tribute-album-choosing hijinks.
Vitamin Records: http://www.vitaminrecords.com