by BEN KROMER AND DARCY CAPUTO & r & & r & NINE INCH NAILS & r & & r & Year Zero & r & & r & 4 Stars & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he state of America (already bad) gets progressively worse until, by the year 2022, the government is drugging the water, free elections are gone, and sedition is punishable by incarceration or death. A concept album that spreads beyond the album part, Year Zero's story unfolds on various Websites that cumulatively paint a blurry picture of a paranoid, nightmare country on the brink of revolution or soul death.
And that's before the music starts. From there, it's 14 stories from individuals living in the year 0000 (as the calendar is reset) channeled through the music of Nine Inch Nails. Calling it "ambitious" would be like calling NIN's body of work "technically accomplished."
This dystopian future vision isn't unique, but it's believable and well crafted, and Trent Reznor's music has never been better. I can't wait for the third conceptual element: the apocalyptic live show.
-- BEN KROMER
DOWNLOAD: "The Good Soldier"
DINOSAUR JR. & r & & r & Beyond & r & & r & 3 Stars & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & ho would've thunk the grunge pioneers who at one time toured with the likes of Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and even My Bloody Valentine would, after 16 years, put their differences aside and start touring again? We're not talking a tribal casino tour here either.
It seemed so unlikely because J. Mascis, chief songwriter and guitar virtuoso, had fired childhood friend and bassist Lou Barlow, who went on to success in Sebadoh, the Folk Implosion, and solo.
So what changed? Going gray, and with nothing else in the works, it might have occurred to Mascis that it was time to bury the hatchet. Barlow and Murph agreed and a nationwide tour was launched to much fanfare. Sparks flew and Beyond was born.
There is nothing astounding about Beyond, beside the fact that it seems no time has passed. Beyond manages to channel early-'90s alt rock like it was still inspiring pre-teens. Oh, wait...
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.