EP

Add Violence – Nine Inch Nails

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 8.5/10

Nine Inch Nails’ Not the Actual Events EP, the first in a trilogy, wasn’t the fury and fire we expected. While it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t all that memorable. The songs were decent and the mood was forced aggression. But with Add Violence, the second EP, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross hit their stride. They give us a record that successfully mixes new NIN ventures with the challenging and often chilling songs they’re known for. The result is ugly, unpleasant, and unfriendly, something Reznor actually wanted. But this doesn’t mean the EP is bad; it may be the best they’ve given us since their return.

Reznor lulls you into a safe space with opening track “Less Than.” Not as compelling as other songs, it’s the most accessible. It has catchy synth heavy music reminiscent of old school video games that makes you dance. The memorable hook doesn’t hurt either. The song gets a kick to the gut during the chorus when the music explodes in distortion. It’s reminiscent of Hesitation Marks sound and while it may not grab you at first, it grows on you over time. The mood shifts when we get to “The Lovers.” The music starts out quiet with an atmospheric air that slowly builds up around Reznor’s unnerving muted vocals. There’s a sense of unease with this song – the music creeps along as if waiting for something bad to happen. And lyrics like “Please don’t leave me here/I could stop it/Maybe I could stop it (if I wanted to)/But I’m not the one driving anymore” are haunting. It sounds like someone trying to regain control as they’re slowly losing it. It’s a great song that sets up the EP’s uneasy mood.

The stand out track on this EP is the chilling “This Isn’t the Place.” It opens on a fragile, haunting note with an eerie piano and synth that’s constantly swelling. It keeps you on edge letting you wonder where the song is headed next. It finally breaks when we get to Reznor’s fragile, broken falsetto vocals. He sounds scared as he sings “I thought we had more time” a harrowing reminder that life is short. Soon, the music swells once again drowning out Reznor and leaving you shaken. It’s a track that’s uncomfortable and unnerving, something NIN excels at.

Not Anymore” breaks up the atmospheric mood and gets back to the rougher side of NIN. The music starts out fuzzy and rough sounding before everything explodes and speeds up during the hook. This is more akin to their typical sound since it’s bursting with energy and aggression. While it’s not as unnerving as some of the other tracks, it’s the hardest one on the EP. It’s a frantic track that gets your heart pumping and your fists in the air like every good NIN song should.

The final track “The Background World” gets into the ugliness Reznor wanted to tap into. Clocking in at 11 minutes, the first half of the track has an electronic soundscape steadily building up to something heavier and darker. The last seven minutes are filled with an electronic loop that gets more distorted and garbled as time goes on. Everything gets more broken up until you can’t recognize the music anymore. It’s a compelling, yet uncomfortable experience. It’s easy to stop the song before it reaches this part, but it’d sound incomplete without it. Somehow Reznor managed to make this wall of noise an integral part of the song rather than unnecessary garbage to fill up the record.

Add Violence is a moody, atmospheric experience that shows Reznor can still make compelling music this late in his career. Whereas the previous EP sounded like blind fury and aggression that didn’t leave a lasting impression, this EP successfully mixes the old and the new. It’s a record to get lost in and once you come out, you’re left shaken. Reznor succeeds in giving us music that’s uncomfortable, which is where NIN shines. It’s clear that NIN is working up to something bigger and with this release. We’ll be waiting eagerly to see what it is.

Musical Quickie: counterfeit e.p. – Martin Gore

Release Year: 1989

Rating: 7.5/10

Martin Gore is known as the baby faced songwriter for Depeche Mode, but in 1989 he ventured out on his own for his debut solo EP during a band hiatus. Rather than dishing out some new material Gore covers six songs and he does a great job at making them his own. One of the best and catchiest tracks is “Compulsion” with feel good upbeat synth and Gore’s unmistakable falsetto vocals. For the most part all of the songs are good from the somber “In A Manner of Speaking” to the creepy and slightly disturbing “Smile in the Crowd.” The only dull track is “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth,” which sounds like an overblown message to protect the planet. It’s really sappy, wishy washy, and downright boring.

A big issue with the EP is the music. It sounds fucking awesome, but no matter how hard you try you can’t help but make comparisons to Depeche Mode. “Gone” and the other songs all have synth and new wave elements that remind you of the band’s earlier material. It makes it hard to distinguish Gore’s own work from what he’s done with the band, but it’s still an interesting listen. This is must have for any Gore addicts out there and DM fans are sure to like it too, but with familiar music and lack of new songs, it can’t outrun Depeche Mode’s shadow.

Musical Quickie: Trust Fall (Side A) – Incubus

Release Year: 2015

Rating: 8/10

Incubus returns this year with two new EPs. The first one, Trust Fall, was released last month and it shows the band haven’t lost their touch. While it isn’t full of their strongest material, it’s miles better than what they did on their last studio album. There’s something to admire and cling to in all of the songs. The opening number “Trust Fall” is punchier and more energetic than most of the material from their 2011 LP. Something about it makes it feel like classic Incubus. The same can’t be said for “Make Out Party,” which is Incubus trying to be sexy and it’s a little weird. Brandon Boyd goes falsetto, which initially put me off the song. But the rest of the song grew on me, so I’ve learned to deal. At least he sounds good during the hook. Dealing with a carnal desire for a lover, some of the lyrics are laughable: “your honey spilt over, and now I am an army of ants/And we’re all thinkin’ the same thought/“Let’s get to work.” They may not put you in the mood, but at least the song is pretty good.

“Absolution Calling” catches your attention with the opening synth mixed in with their classic rock sound. The whole thing is upbeat, catchy, and marks a triumphant return to music. Personally, it reminded me why I like the band so much. The closing track “Dance Like You’re Dumb” is all about letting loose, having fun, and dancing even if you don’t know how. This is another song that’s full of energy and gets you jumping. Things get a little iffy during the bridge with distorted samples and soul singers. It just doesn’t fit in. The EP isn’t perfect, but it will get you excited for their next release. There’s a bit of experimentation, but it’s fun. You can hear how much fun the guys had while recording this and it puts you in a good mood.

Musical Quickie: Deep Hands – Cage the Elephant

Cage-The-Elephant-Deep-hands-cover

Release Year: 2014

Rating: 7/10

Early in October, Cage the Elephant released a brief live EP featuring songs from their third album, such as “It’s Just Forever,” “Spiderhead,” and “Cigarette Daydreams.” While the songs choices are good and the band sounds great like the always do, their previous live LP is better in comparison. The biggest issue with this release is the songs were recorded for Guitar Center Sessions, which gives us a more mellow version of the band. Since this isn’t taken from one of their tour shows, it doesn’t capture the charm, craziness, and energy they usually have on stage. They don’t come off as fun and spontaneous like they do normally. It does a good job at wetting fans’ appetite for new CTE material, but their previous live release is far better. Let’s just hope they’ll put out another live LP very soon.

Another Mindless Rip Off – Mindless Self Indulgence

469c__17499.1405394089.300.310Release Year: 2006

Rating: 7/10

For just about every album they release, MSI puts out related EPs filled with b-sides and remixes. They usually do one for each single from said record. While it sounds like a great idea they don’t execute it in the best way possible. This Hot Topic exclusive features five previously unreleased tracks and five remixes. While a lot of the songs are interesting and aren’t that bad, they don’t compare with their other material. Sometimes it actually feels like these were rejects from the album and for good reason.

The strongest song from the mini-album is “My World.” Like most of their music, this one has a hip-hop feel and actually sounds like an old school rap song with interesting sounds and trilling music during the chorus. It also has the humor and weirdness you expect from MSI in lyrics like “Everybody wants a piece of my world/Everybody wants a piece of my… ass.” It also has the simple hook of “No no no no no no” that’ll get stuck in your head. This track could’ve easily appeared on any of their albums. “ Pre-teen Violence” has rock inspired music mixed with lots of synth and electronica. While the music is upbeat and catchy, the song itself is just decent. It’s lacking the bratty, aggressive attitude of their other songs and it’s not as memorable.

The best part of “Frying Pan” is the music. It’s a return to the hip-hop flavor mixed with 8-bit sounds that make you feel like you’re in an old video game. It’s catchy, upbeat, fun, and energetic with odd lyrics that are somewhat difficult to decipher: “Out of the frying pan and into the fire/Nobody knows me ‘cept me and my mother/Out of the frying pan, into my Mercedes/This is the dope shit for me and my lady.” It’s better than the previous track, but still not among their greatest. The weakest song is “Lush.” Things start off pretty good with frantic, boombastic music rushing towards you, but when the vocals start everything gets disjointed. Suddenly, the music sounds like a demented circus with various noises playing and it never synchs up well with the singing. By the end, it’s nothing but a mess of looping noise giving you a headache.

There’s not much to say about “Born to be Beheaded.” It has weird lyrics that seem to allude to prostitution (“Hey baby girl wanna fuck?/Poppin’ out my coochie for a buck”) and more of the heavy hip-hop music that infiltrates most of their songs. With Jimmy Urine constantly repeating the title of the song during the chorus, it still manages to be catchy. The remixes come next and honestly, these aren’t bad. The biggest issue with them is it’s all the same song. This means you hear “What Do They Know?” five times in a row. Most of them at least sound different, such as the MSI V. Julien-K & Chester Bennington mix that slows down the track and the Last Word mix that gives it beat box based music. These are mixes you wouldn’t mind listening to, but not one after the other. This is something MSI does a lot. Some of their EPs are ten mixes of the same track. It would’ve been better if they mixed different songs from the album to keep listeners from getting bored. With the way it is, after the second remix you’re ready to stop the album.

Overall, the EP gets 7/10. The EP is definitely a must have for collectors since it’s an exclusive, but if you can’t get your hands on it you’re not missing out on much. None of the unreleased tracks are bad, but they lack the bratty, just-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude of their best songs. Still, they’re not horrible to listen to. Regarding the remixes, they’re pretty well done, but since it’s the same song remixed five times the EP gets boring pretty fast. It’s an unremarkable release that doesn’t satisfy fan’s craving for MSI material.