Release Year: 1992
Trent Reznor is a beast of a musician who does everything from songwriting, playing various instruments, composing, and even producing. Since the early days of NIN, he’s handed over his songs to others to see what they do with the material. Now, it’s not surprising to find a remix album after the release of a NIN studio album. Though it’s technically an EP, the Broken release got the remix treatment in 1992. This release takes “Wish,” “Last,” “Gave Up,” and “Happiness in Slavery” and turns them inside out to the point of being difficult to identify.
There are two versions of “Wish,” both by J.T. Thrilwell, but first one is better than “Fist Fuck.” What’s so prominent about the first version is the heavy, tribal like percussion that plays throughout the entire track. The latter version has the same drumming, but since it focuses on distorted Timothy Leary samples and squeaky noises, it’s very repetitive and gets old very fast. The former remix features a lot of elements from the original song, but the mix sounds rough like it’s being played out of blown out speakers. Both of them aren’t bad and have their strong points, but out of the two remixes the first one is better and is interesting enough to listen to this along with the original.
There are also two version of “Happiness in Slavery” and both remixes are pretty solid. The remix by Reznor, Chris Vrenna, and P.K. has an electronic influence. With the various synth and techno inspired riffs it plays like the tracks from NIN’s debut LP. It has a mechanical vibe with lots of weird noises swirling around catching your attention. Like other mixes on the EP, this has very little traces of the original, but since everything else is sonically intriguing, it doesn’t really bother you. With how aggressive, brutal, fuzzy, and staticy it is, it sounds similar to Ministry’s best material. The “Screaming Slave” version of the song is trippy, confusing, and really disorienting. It sounds like fifty things are playing at once, making it difficult to figure what’s going on. Everything keeps shifting, steadily getting out of control as the song goes on. To amp up its grittiness, it also features clips of Bob Flanagan, who was in the video, being tortured by the mechanical device featured in the video. It’s an unnerving eight minutes you may not want to hear again.
“Throw This Away,” mixed by Reznor, Vrenna, and Butch Vig, is the most difficult song to identify on the release. Not only is it because the music sounds nothing like the songs on Broken, it’s a mix of the tracks “Last” and “Suck.” The vibe starts out slow and methodical, with high pitched squelching noises drowning underwater. As this continues, bits of Reznor whispering “and I want you to throw me away” can be heard making it sound menacing and disturbing. Before the song ends, the pace abruptly changes and is suddenly upbeat with screeching guitars that sound like they’re dying. “Gave Up,” remixed by Coil with Danny Hyde, is disjointed in the beginning, which is what Reznor was originally going for. After that the pace picks up turning into an industrial club mix of the song. The vocals are choppy to the point you can’t make out what Reznor is saying. It sounds good, but compared to the other remix this one seems pretty simple.
This is only the first of many remix albums Reznor would release during his career. While initially I wasn’t a big fan of this EP, now I have a new found appreciation for it. Though many of the songs have two different versions, they are often diverse enough to not be dull. While some of the mixes sound like simple club versions, some of them completely flip the script and turn them into something new, disturbing, and scary, which doesn’t seem possible since it is the Broken EP we’re talking about. If anything it shows how Reznor isn’t afraid to let others handle his precious music.