Nine Inch Nails And Why I Hereby Declare Him Great

Nine Inch Nails has been around for a while now and he just gets better. This is Chris’ really brief look at what makes NIN/Trent Reznor pretty fucking cool.

Trent Reznor
Trent Reznor

Before I dig into this, I want to make clear that I virtually always refer to Nine Inch Nails as “he”, “him”, etc. Almost never do I use “they”. This is because Trent Reznor is the band creator, the main creative force and the only constant member. Nine Inch Nails as a band is really just Trent Reznor plus whomever he can get. Without Trent, there is no Nine Inch Nails. So, when I start using subjective and objective personal pronouns like “he” and “his”, don’t freak out. Also, I’ll just use “NIN” a lot of the time.

Back in the early ’90s, when Nine Inch Nails was first getting big and popular, I was still lost in a horrible sea of dance mix and radio pop rock. It wasn’t until I was in grade 7-8 that I first heard NIN. I would have been about 13-14 years old.

The Downward Spiral (1994) was arguably NIN’s breakthrough album. He’d had some success prior to this, but virtually every young heavy ’90s rock fan had a copy of this album. That’s the album that was still out when I started listening, and that was the first Nine Inch Nails I purchased, based on high recommendation. As an angsty teen, that was exactly what I needed to hear. I bought the older Broken EP shortly afterward.

It was godless, heavy, dark, terrifying, thrilling and morbid. At the same time, it was well thought-out, brilliantly executed, original, excuse-free and utterly satisfying. Nine Inch Nails instantly became my favourite band (I should note that I didn’t yet know that it was virtually a one-man show – I should also note that NIN and all things Trent continue to be among my favourites to this day).

Lucky for me, while albums have been fewer and farther away from each other, NIN has been famous for releasing tons of EPs, remix albums, hidden versions, special releases, hard-to-find oddities and rarities, so there has always been a fairly steady flow of material to get my hands on and still get excited about the next full-length album. In fact, officially, NIN has released no fewer than 28 works over the course of 24 years, so he’s been a pretty busy guy (not to mention side projects and other work outside of NIN).

Of the bands that I like the most and/or have liked the longest, one of the things I like is how they progress. A great example of a bad band that never gets better is AC/DC. Yeah, I said it. They suck. Just face it. Every time I hear an AC/DC song, it sounds identical to every other one they’ve ever made. The first one sucked. Why keep making the same song over and over? Yeah, I know. Commercial success. Fuck ’em. I know that NIN has lost some fans over the years for changing too much from what people remember from the early ’90s, but that’s actually been one of the things that’s kept me listening over the years. It still sounds like Nine Inch Nails, but this track is very different from that one. Change is good, people. Usually.

Trent’s been around a long time now. He’s tried some different things and has shown that he’s not afraid to dive in. When people started downloading music (I am sooo not getting into that, in depth, right now), he said, “Fuck it. I want in.” [paraphrase] He was at the fore of new technology in his music (I remember remixing one of his tunes right from his website in the early 2000s, The Big Come Down), embracing the internet and all that it implied for the music industry, and when it came time, he showed that he had no problem releasing a free album online, The Slip, following Radiohead’s cue with their release, In Rainbows. Before that, the album Year Zero included hidden messages and hints that led to a network of websites that provided a back-story for the album, which was set in a dystopian near future. Some included music downloads, some just strung the story along, some linked to others, some were dead ends filled with incoherent rubble. And in the middle, he managed to release the experimental Ghosts I-IV. All brilliant stuff!

Now, without allowing other projects (HTDA, film music, etc.) to fall behind, he’s ready to release a new full-length album. Announced on the official Nine Inch Nails Twitter feed, Hesitation Marks is set to release on 9.03.13.

The first single is on Soundcloud right now.

It’s been a long haul, but I’m in for good. Whatever he’s got in store, I can’t wait to hear it.

What do you think? Do you miss the old NIN? Are you looking forward to the new album?

Also, here’s an extra treat:

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