Melody Maker


28. November 1992

Trent Reznor's Edge  

Autor: Paul Lester



Nine Inch Nails



Nine Inch Nails are The Smiths with samplers. And NIN‘s terminally aggrieved leader, Trent Reznor, is a Morrissey for America’s hardcore industrial dance set. If the (accidental?) similarity between old Smiths titles and some of those on Nine Inch Nails‘ mega-selling debut album of electronic loathe songs, 1990‘s “Pretty Hate Machine“, didn‘t convince you (compare “Miserable Lie“ with “Terrible Lie“, or “Something I Can Never Have“ with “Never Had No One Ever“), the lyrics an their follow-up mini-LP, “Broken“, released only two months ago, should leave you in no doubt that Mozzer and Reznor are the only serious contenders for this year‘s Extended Tortured Adolescence award.

As Reznor groans on “Wish“ (reworked here), “This is the first day of my last days,“ inadvertently echoing Herr Grim Oop North‘s immortal couplet, “I know it‘s over/And it never really began“. Meanwhile, “It doesn‘t matter anymore“ (“Last“), “The blind have been blessed with security“ (“Happiness In Slavery“) and “Forgot how it feels/Well almost’ (“Gave Up“) effortlessly match Morrissey for, respectively, weary resignation, humour in the face of horror and the sheer numbing pain of disappointment.

But not even His Glumness could equal Reznor‘s staggeringly anguished performance on “Fixed“, a 40- minute-plus collection that features radical remixes of the above four tracks from “Broken“, plus two additional songs-cum-homicidal assaults, with all of Trent‘s rusty-throated exorcisms reduced to a series of sighs, yelps, ghastly screams and ghostly wails in the machinery. If “Help Met I Am In Hell“ from that last record was NIN‘s own “Heaven Knows I‘m Miserable Now“, only considerably further down the road to ruin, “Fixed“ sees them/him (Trent Reznor is Nine Inch Nails) veering off the path completely, careening over the edge and smashing into a million tiny peaces at the bottom. It is not a pretty sound.

The sonic restructuring has been achieved with the help of Coil, Butch “Nirvana“ Vig and .Jim Thirlwell (If you believe the NIN/Ministry/RevCo axis to be the demonic hatechild offspring of industrial and hardcore, Thirlwell‘s groundshattering early Eighties teutonic metal-bashing as Foetus must be regarded as decisive an influence on the current perpetrators of Wagnerian Techno Apocalypse as the guitars of Bug Black). Now, Island have already circulated a statement from Trent Reznor to explain how “Broken“ was made “Wilthout the permission of the record label, to ensure it could fester without Divine Intervention,“ so these acts of deliberate commercial auto-destruction (Reznor, for whom Masochism is A Must, has always had an uncontrollable urge to sabotage his own career) shouldn‘t come as too much of a surprise.

They shouldn‘t, but they do. Perhaps because the volume and venom count is even higher than before. Or maybe just because the sounds assembled with neurotic precision an “Fixed“ (Trent evidently finds solace in the gadgets and gizmos of his studio console and spends obsessive hours getting this apparently slung-together storm of noise just right) amount to one of the most sadistic go-f***-yourself established audience since Lou Reed‘s triple-LP farrago of fizzing and feedback, “Metal Machine Music“. If “Fixed“ does sell, it will do so by default. Even NIN diehards who bought the Ministry and Faith No More records won‘t be prepared for this cataclysmic din.

What is Trent Reznor‘s problem? Why all this - amplified mangled tape clatter and intergalactic radio interference? Why punish the listener as well as himself? What series of calamitous events have conspired to leave this desperate musician so bereft of hope and faith? How come he feels “Dirty on the inside“ (“Throw This Away“)? Is this photogenic 26-year-old and potential electro-angst pin-up just trying to nobble his record company‘s chances of marketing him as a cooler-than-cryogen JJ/EMF/PWEI? Is he serious when he roars “I hate everyone! (“Wish“) like Spoilt Bastard from Viz, or is this just good old-fashioned Hollywood melodrama? And is he joking when he says his next recording will be called “The Downward Spiral“?

More crucially, is the pitiful wretch pleading, “Let me outta here!“ on “Fist F***”, and heard cracking up at the end of “Screaming Slave“ - a man in existential as well as physical agony who seems to want out of his body and out of this life - actually Trent Reznor himself?

Because, if it is, then after this, surely even suicide would be painless.

Paul Lester