NIN

Not the Actual Events EP – Nine Inch Nails

Release Year: 2016

Rating: 7/10

When Trent Reznor announced last year that we would indeed get new Nine Inch Nails music, I was ecstatic. Throughout the year, Reznor shot down any rumors of new NIN material. After months of speculation, he finally gave us new music. It’s not a new album, but it’s a taste of what’s to come. But rather than being a release that displays his best work, it’s more like something to shut up NIN fans and let Reznor work in peace.

Though trying not to make comparisons, the opening track “Branches/Bones” sounds like a leftover from Hesitation Marks. It’s brief, but the upbeat rock oriented music is similar to material from Reznor’s previous album. It kicks off the EP with a rush of energy thanks to the non-stop guitar riff that plows through the song. The music is loud and jarring sounding like it’s being played through blown out speakers. The track is decent at best, but it’s not that notable. At least it’s decent at kicking off the EP.

All the songs are solid, but very few of them stay with you afterward. “She’s Gone Away” and “The Idea of You” are good, but don’t grab you by the throat and pummel you like other NIN tracks. The only song that stands out is the eerie “Dear World.” Whether it’s the synth groove or the creepy opening vocals with Reznor singing “Yes, everyone seems to be asleep” this was the only song I actually remembered from the EP. The song has dark undertones as if something horrible is about to happen. Reznor’s monotone manner and the cold, robotic music makes it seem like something from an 80s dystopian film. There’s also a hypnotic air to it. The way Reznor speaks quietly seems like he’s trying to put you under a spell. It’s one of the coolest and unnerving tracks on the EP.

One thing the EP excels at is creating this dark, claustrophobic feeling. Songs like “She’s Gone Away” and “The Idea of You” have gritty music that puts you on edge. The former has a slow droning drumbeat as if ushering in some unforeseeable doom. And the way Reznor’s wails after the chorus gives it a haunting atmosphere. Everything in the song sounds so foreboding. The latter song has quiet vocals as if Reznor’s on the verge of breaking. Then chaos unleashes during the chorus when everything clashes together for a destructive mood.

The closing track “Burning Bright (Field on Fire)” continues the musical trend of impending doom. With the booming, fuzzy music it sounds like the end of days is coming. Just like with the rest of the EP, the music is the high point of the song. It instantly draws you in. The singing and the lyrics are where things get weird. The chorus of “break through the surface and” is fine on its own, but for the verses, Reznor does this weird spoken word style. Instead of being smooth, it sounds like a random rant. His flow goes against the music making it disjointed and off-putting. Near the end, the music and singing clash together creating a jarring wall of noise. It’s another solid song but doesn’t really hit that sweet spot for NIN fans.

Reznor’s always been a master of electronic music and it’s no different on this release. Each track has gripping music and is a mix of cool grooves with cold, metallic sounding electronic soundscapes. It’s the highlight of the EP. The same can’t be said for the lyrics which are forgettable. In his time, Reznor has crafted some of the most anguished filled, aching, and heartbreaking songs. Little of that is on display here. The lyrics seem meaningless and difficult to pinpoint what he’s trying to get across. Lines like “Still can make out pieces with the opening sewed shut/Yeah, parts of me are slowing down, time is speeding up/Spiders crawling everywhere, infected Japanese” (“Branches/Bones”) come off as forced. As if he’s trying too hard to be poignant and unnerving. They’re not as engaging or thoughtful as they are on past NIN releases. Hell, even the lyrics on Hesitation Marks are better. This makes it seem like Reznor rushed out this release to stop fans from asking about new NIN music.

The EP is solid, but does it really jump out at you? No. The songs don’t punch you in the gut like we expect from NIN. If anything, they’re fairly decent rock songs with some electronic elements. The EP isn’t terrible, but it’s far from Reznor’s best. There are bits and pieces of past NIN releases in the song, like elements of The Fragile, but few of them leave an impression. You’ll find yourself struggling to remember most of the songs after listening to it a few times. Very little about it is notable and there’s little to say about it. The strongest point is the music, but the lyrics fail to be engaging. For fans longing for a NIN release, this isn’t going to satisfy them for long. Still, it does make me excited for what NIN has in store for us. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long for more new music.

Top 10 Songs About Other Musicians

Even though musicians are famous, have tons of fans, and perform across the world it doesn’t mean they can’t fan out from time to time. Musicians aren’t afraid to address each other in song. Sometimes it comes from a place of love or an homage to someone they admire. Other times, it can be kind of ugly, a snarky tune dedicated to someone they don’t care for. The songs can be obvious and other times the dedication is well hidden. There are too many songs about other musicians to name, so here are ten of the most notable songs about other musicians.

10. “Obsessed” – Mariah Carey

Ever since his third album, The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem claimed that he and Mariah Carey were once an item. But aside from dropping her name in a few songs, neither one have commented further on the supposed relationship. When her name appeared again on “Bagpipes from Baghdad” with the rapper calling out her then-husband, Nick Cannon,Carey decided she had enough. She wrote this song in responsive to the rapper’s claims calling them false, saying he’s obsessed with her, and that he’s delusional. And to make things even clearer, Carey plays an unnamed rapper in the video chasing after…herself. Of course, Eminem didn’t take this lightly and released his own response titled “The Warning.” What’s even more strange than the situation is thought of Eminem and Mariah Carey dating in the first place.

9. “Michael, You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For” – Duran Duran

The Michael in question here is INXS’ Michael Hutchence. The song kinds sound of somber, especially with the singer’s death, but it didn’t start out that way. The song is actually about Simon LeBon’s friendship with Hutchence. In an interview with Q Magazine, LeBon says the song is about Hutchence being “a naughty boy” in France and London. He apparently did so many substances LeBon couldn’t keep up. The song was released a month before Hutchence died on November 22, 1997. It’s sad that an ode to friendship took on a sad meaning not shortly after it was released.

8. “Tunic (A Song for Karen)” – Sonic Youth

Karen Carpenter, singer, and drummer for The Carpenters, tragically died in 1983 due to complications from anorexia nervosa. Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon wrote this song years later trying to put herself in the late singer’s shoes. The frenetic guitars and the memorable hook of “You are never going anywhere” don’t exactly mask the dark connotations of this song. There are references to Karen’s eating disorder and lines about losing who you are. There’s even a verse where Gordon imagines the singer up in heaven, happy, and playing drums again. When asked about the song 20 years later, Gordon said “I was trying to put myself into Karen’s body. It was like she had so little control over her life, like a teenager – they have so little control over what’s happening to them that one way they can get it is through what they eat or don’t. Also, I think she lost her identity, it got smaller and smaller. And there have been times when I feel I’ve lost mine.” It’s a tribute to the singer that catches you off guard since it’s not sappy or sad.

7. “Dude Looks Like a Lady” – Aerosmith

Probably best remembered for its use in Mrs. Doubtfire, this song talks about an androgynous guy who is mistaken for a woman. Looking at the lyrics it doesn’t seem Steven Tyler minds all that much saying “you may be wrong/but you know it’s alright” and he even does a little cross-dressing of his own in the video. The origin story for the song changes depending on the source: Tyler says the song came from hearing Motley Crue saying “Dude!” all the time. Vince Neil says the song was inspired by a New York bar where the waiters dress in women’s clothing. But Nikki Sixx says the song is actually about Tyler mistaking Vince Neil for a woman in a bar. It’s wasn’t hard to do; did you see the way he dressed in the 80’s? It doesn’t really matter how the song came about because it’s an Aerosmith classic. Though I prefer to believe it’s about Vince Neil; it’s funnier that way.

6. “Tearjerker” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Many songs were written about Kurt Cobain after his shocking death. The Chili Peppers added their contribution with this track from their sixth album One Hot Minute. It’s a ballad where Anthony Kiedis sings about his reaction to Kurt’s death and what he liked so much about the singer. With lines like “I liked your whiskers/I liked the dimple in your chin/your pale blue eyes” and “you never knew this/but I wanted badly for you to/requite my love” it’s more like a love song to Cobain. Though the two worked together on an MTV special, they weren’t all that close. But Kiedis explains Kurt was someone everyone felt close to. “I don’t know why everyone on earth felt so close to that guy; he was beloved and endearing and inoffensive in some weird way. For all of his screaming and all of his darkness, he was just lovable.” It’s a sweet song that’ll make Nirvana fans smile.

5. “Cry Me a River” – Justin Timberlake

Though Timberlake has denied it since the song’s release, we all know this song is about his ex-Britney Spears. The basis of the song is a bad break up and pretty much not giving a shit about the person. It also makes several references to infidelity, which is what apparently ended the pair’s relationship. And to top things off, Timberlake’s lover in the video looks like Spears. Anyone who saw the video pretty much knew who he was talking about. The singer finally admitted in 2011 that he wrote the song after the two had an argument. So even if the song isn’t a direct attack on Britney Spears, she was still an inspiration. The break up was nasty, but maybe now he can thank her since it gave him one of his biggest songs to date.

4. “Suicide Blonde” – INXS

INXS frontman Michael Hutchence was known as a playboy in the 80s, but his most infamous relationship was with Kylie Minogue, you know the one responsible for that song. Rumor has it the Aussie singer inspired Hutchence to write the song since she dyed her hair blonde for a role in the film The Delinquents. Neither one ever confirmed the song’s origin, but with lyrics about a red hot lover who has men landing at her feet, it makes a lot of sense. Only Hutchence knows the true significance. Either way, it ended up being an INXS classic and has that sexy flair only Michael Hutchence could pull off so flawlessly.

3. “I’ll Stick Around” – Foo Fighters

Though Dave Grohl wrote a beautiful and touching song about Kurt Cobain called “Friend of a Friend” that deserves to be mentioned, his song attacking Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, gets him on the list. It’s a fan favorite and many picked up that Grohl was attacking someone. With lines like “I don’t owe you anything” there was speculation it was about Cobain. Grohl finally admitted in 2009 it was actually about Courtney Love, which you can see in lines like “how could it be/I’m the only one who sees/your rehearsed insanity.” He sings about how he regrets letting her and Cobain hook up and that he can see through her deceptiveness. It’s a hate filled song of the best kind, but it seems Grohl has forgiven Love in later years. The two made amends at the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Grohl wouldn’t be the only artist to blast Love on a track; Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” is about the Hole singer as well.

2. “Ms. Jackson” – Outkast

“Ms. Jackson” is the best song by Outkast with sick flows and a memorable hook you’re still singing to this day. The duo sings about “Ms. Jackson” who doesn’t approve of her daughter’s relationship with a guy and when they end up having a baby, it only makes things worse. Turns out, the song is based on true events. Andre 3000 dated Erykah Badu and the two ended up having a child out of wedlock to the disapproval of her mother. 3000 said he felt he never got to explain his side of the story and didn’t like being kept out of his kid’s life on purpose. As a way of reaching out to her mother, he wrote this song to apologize and say how much he wanted to be a part of his kid’s life. Badu’s mother loved it and hopefully it patched up their relationship. Hearing so much truth put into this song makes it even more appealing and it’s still a hit 16 years after its release. Wait, really? Now I feel old.

1. “Say Hello 2 Heaven” – Temple of the Dog

In March 1990, Andrew Wood, frontman of Mulfunkshun and Mother Love Bone, died of a drug overdose. Chris Cornell, Wood’s friend, and roommate took the news hard. Soundgarden were touring Europe at the time of his death and feeling like he had no one to talk to, wrote two songs: “Reach Down” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven.” Instead of putting it on a Soundgarden album, Cornell teamed up with most of Pearl Jam and formed Temple of the Dog in his honor. “Say Hello 2 Heaven” is a tribute to Wood where Cornell deals with his grief and even makes a reference to not knowing the demons his friend was dealing with. It’s a powerful song where Cornell let’s his insane vocal range fly near the song’s end. Wood’s death didn’t only affect Cornell. It also had an effect on Alice in Chains, who wrote the song “Would?” about him along with others in the grunge scene that tragically passed. It’s sad to think Layne Staley would meet a similar fate 10 years later.

Honorable Mention:

“Starfuckers Inc.” – Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor hates celebrities and pop culture. He makes this clear in this single from The Fragile. Being one of Reznor’s heaviest and aggressive songs, it takes the piss out the vanity and shallow commercialization of fame. It even makes a reference to Carly Simon’s famous song “You’re So Vain.” But rumor has it the song is actually about Marilyn Manson. Reznor had a falling out with Manson twice, though Manson does appear in the song’s video. Others say it’s about Courtney Love. Reznor hasn’t confirmed or denied the rumors, so the track ends up getting an honorable mention. It’s just too biting and sassy to leave off.

There are more than ten songs about musicians, so which ones did I miss? Which ones are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

15 Memorable Beavis and Butt-Head Video Moments

Beavis and Butt-Head were one of the things that made MTV great in the 90s. The duo’s moronic antics at scoring chicks, being cool, and messing with Daria made the show dumb in the best possible way. But what I always felt was the highlight of any Beavis and Butt-Head episode were the videos. They watched some of the most popular and obscure videos from the 80s and 90s and each was accompanied by their weird, hilarious, stupid commentary. They’ve watched so many videos it’s hard to keep track of them all, but here are my 15 memorable Beavis and Butt-Head videos.

15. “Heart Shaped Box” – Nirvana

The boys actually like Nirvana, so they don’t have too many bad things to say about this video. They cheer on their favorite parts while Beavis claims the video is giving him nightmares that look exactly like the video. The most memorable comment of the clip is their criticism of Kurt Cobain moving his hair from his eyes only to have fall back in his eyes. The video ends with Beavis promising to set up his room with stars and lights like the one from the video and Butt-Head retorting “You’re never gonna set up your room and you’re never gonna score.” It’s probably the smartest thing to come out of his mouth. Their commentary on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is good too.

14. “I Wanna Rock” – DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince

The best moments on the show often come from the two misunderstanding what’s happening. And that’s all this clip is, a simple misunderstanding. This song asks only one question and Beavis thinks Will Smith just isn’t getting it. “He wants to rock right now. C’mon can’t you hear him?!” screams Beavis before freaking out at the song for slowing down. By the end of the song Butt-Head thinks Smith “still doesn’t get it,” but Beavis thinks he can use it to mess with teachers leaving him to think “not paying attention is cool.” Say what, now?

13. “The Caterpillar” – The Cure

When I found out Beavis and Butt-Head watched one of The Cure‘s videos, I couldn’t wait to see what they had to say about frontman Robert Smith. Luckily, they didn’t let me down. Unfortunately, the clip is no longer uploaded online, but the duo mainly wondered why Smith never looks at the camera. Honestly, I never noticed that until they pointed it out and every time I watch the video now I only focus on Smith not staring at the camera. They also mention how his lipstick is on crooked and how he should fix it. It’s a clip that’ll give Cure fans a good chuckle.

12. “Detachable Penis” – King Missile

This is one of the few clips where the duo don’t say anything. Instead they giggle incessantly at the word “penis.” They break from their bubbling laughter only to say “he said penis!” The longer you watch the two losing control, the funnier it is. Soon enough you’re mindlessly giggling with them. On another note, the song itself is really fucking weird. Seriously.

11. “The Family Ghost” – King Diamond

Even though the guys ripped on Grim Reaper plenty of times it’s surprising to learn they hate King Diamond more. Butt-Head even says “this might be the worst crap I’ve ever seen in my life.” They then go on to say Diamond looks like the Count from Sesame Street and how sad the whole situation is. Throughout the whole thing they remain shocked at just how bad it is. Considering how many metal fans love King Diamond it’s really funny to hear them point out just how ridiculous the band is.

10. “Blind” – Korn

“This looks like it might rock…maybe” is how this clip begins, but it’s not until Beavis makes himself dizzy that the genius of it comes in. Getting the high he was looking for he then sounds like a music critic citing everything wrong with the band, how they lack originality, and how they take ideas other bands making them bland. Not only is it funny, but it’s a spoof on all the hatred and criticism that got thrown at Nu-metal. Afterward Butt-Head slaps some sense into Beavis and tells him “you got all dizzy and started talking like a dumbass.” Nice dig there, Mike Judge.

9. “I’ll Stick Around” – Foo Fighters

There are so many hilarious moments from this clip from Butt-Head implying Beavis “swings that way now” to wondering if the band is dressed in white because they drive ice cream trucks. But the best part is when Butt-Head says “Hey it’s the dude from Nirvarna.” Beavis replies “Um I don’t think that dude’s with us anymore. You shouldn’t say that.” It’s a funny and clever way to sneak in a reference to Kurt Coabin’s death that wasn’t nasty or mean. I’m sure at the time it also made viewers take pause and reflect on the newly departed rockstar.

8. “I Alone” – Live

Did you ever wonder if the dude from Live was actually a pull string doll that screams and wets itself? That’s what the duo come up with while watching this video. Watching the clip now it looks pretty ridiculous, but Beavis and Butt-Head knew this while the clip was popular. Why is he making all those faces? Who’s that guy walking around on the set? What is up with that little braid? It’s these observations that show these guys may be dumb, but they at least say what everyone else is thinking.

7. “March of the Pigs” – Nine Inch Nails

Beavis and Butt-Head manage to rip apart this NIN video and make it seem silly instead of intense. Though they like the clip, they bring up several issues by demanding Trent Reznor put down his arms and start the song already. Comments on Reznor stumbling around like he’s drunk, touching other people’s stuff, needing to rehearse more, and wondering where they got those shiny pants makes you see the video differently. It doesn’t seem so intense and heavy in Beavis and Butt-Head’s hands. But the one thing I want to know is why is Reznor touching himself during the second verse? Maybe I don’t want to know after all.

6. “If I Only Had a Brain” – MC 900ft Jesus

This clip is pretty simple but works so well. Butt-Head drivels on about something while Beavis sings the bass line of the track throughout the entire clip. He stops for a second when Butt-Head slaps him across the face, but starts right back up again. No matter how many times he says “shut up, Beavis” he keeps going. Eventually Butt-Head can’t resist and starts doing it with Beavis. It may not be much, but it’s the mindless singing that makes this clip so funny.

5. “Long Hard Road Out of Hell” – Marilyn Manson

This isn’t the duo’s first time watching one of Manson’s videos, but they have the best commentary for this single. Aired during the Thanksgiving special, it starts out with Butt-Head complaining how people go all religious for Thanksgiving followed by Beavis stating “It is a Jewish holiday.” They then go on to confuse Manson for Cher saying she’s gone downhill thanks to “mentopause,” which makes her boobs get smaller and her butt swell up. They later figure out who it really is and wonder how he manages to hide his junk in one scene. It all ends with Butt-Head calling Beavis a lesbian since he apparently wants to have sex with “a dude.” Unfortunately, I can’t find the video online, so enjoy clips from their Thanksgiving special instead.

4. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” – The Clash

For the majority of this clip Beavis and Butt-Head talk about Seinfeld. Why? Because they believe frontman Mick Jones is Jerry Seinfeld. This prompts them to discuss their favorite characters (the fat guy), that time when you can see Elaine’s boobs, and their favorite episode about “choking their chicken.” It’s hilarious because with his skinny frame, big eyes, and haircut, he kind of looks like the comedian. They finish the clip complaining about the volume of the video not being loud enough, yet they’re too lazy to turn up the TV.

3. “Sweating Bullets” – Megadeth

After watching this commentary from Beavis and Butt-Head, you’ll never hear Dave Mustaine the same way again. After trying to figure which guy was Mustaine, spoiler: it’s all of them, and discussing whether or not he was raised by wolves and why that would be awesome, Butt-Head makes an eye opening observation. “Hey Beavis, this guy talks like you.” Listen to Mustaine sing and Beavis chatter and you’ll see how right Butt-Head is. Hearing this revelation will ruin kick ass songs like “Peace Sells” for quite a long time.

2. “Step Down” – Sick of It All

Whenever I think of memorable Beavis and Butt-Head clips this is the first one that comes to mind. It starts out with Butt-Head actually being right about something: how shitty their lives are. He lists how they have no friends, are not in good health, they’re not happy, and they live in a crappy apartment. But it doesn’t matter since Butt-Head says “we’re cool” right after that. But the thing that makes this clip so great is when the two show off their own dance moves in a similar fashion to the music video. Their moves include “The Dillhole,” “The Bunghole,” and “The Fartknocker Double Inverted Nad Twist.” It’s a hilarious way to pay homage or mock, however you see it, the video they’re watching.

1. “Fear No Evil” – Grim Reaper

These two really hate Grim Reaper. They never have anything nice to say about their videos and they rip this one to shreds. They poke fun at the ridiculous costumes, the corny effects, and the singer, who they think is pretty ugly. When a guy in half a wolf costume pops up Butt-Head wonders if that’s how they draw Wolverine in England. Beavis keeps saying “That’s not Wolverine” until Butt-Head shouts “Shut up, Beavis!” Oddly enough, creator Mike Judge ran into the guitarist of Grim Reaper, who actually loved how mean the boys were and sent them the band’s other clips. Just shows how even musicians have to laugh at themselves once in a while.

What’s your favorite Beavis and Butt-Head video? Any moments that I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Fixed EP – Nine Inch Nails

Release Year: 1992

Rating: 8/10

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.

Year Zero – Nine Inch Nails

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Release Year: 2007

Rating: 9/10

While this LP did pretty well in sales, it still gets overshadowed by some of Nine Inch Nail’s essential records. This time around, Reznor made a concept album rather than turning inward for song ideas. Though it may take a while for fans to get into, it’s impressive with songs ranging from catchy and aggressive to down right bleak. Conscious lyrics, strong themes, and intricate instrumentation make for Nine Inch Nail’s most complex album to date. It takes more than one listen to fully understand it.

Things kick off with the heavy and bombastic instrumental “Hyperpower!”Setting up the tone of the album, intense percussion introduces the track while the other instruments come in one at a time. There’s this pounding rhythm that sounds like an army marching. This feeling is amped up when random shouting starts up. Things get more distorted and chaotic as the song reaches its end and gives way to the next track. “The Beginning of the End” sets up the Big Brother, dystopian theme that runs through the album. Paranoia runs rampant as Reznor talks about others watching you and listening to what you say. It’s definitely not the strongest song here, but it manages to have that distinguishable NIN sound.

Reznor pulls out the funk for “The Good Soldier.” The music is on the groovy side of things and makes you shimmy when it comes on. The throbbing bass is awesome, especially since it comes in when Reznor sings “When the bass goes ‘bomb’.” Midway through light xylophone music infiltrates like a glimmer of hope that’s buried underneath the distortion. Like most of the songs here, this one is pretty bleak. The lyrics describe a soldier who clearly doesn’t believe in what he or she is fighting for, but keeps “trying to believe.” It’s a provocative song that could be applied to thoughts on war. This track leads right to the torn and tattered “Vessel.” The music here is amazing. It’s rough, harsh, scratching, and full of noise. All throughout the music gets more violent and turns into something robotic and fuzzy at the end.

If there’s one really catchy, radio friendly track on the album it’s “Capital G.” The music is really upbeat and isn’t as hard as it is on the other songs. Considering when the song came out, many thought it was about the Bush administration; that’s what I even thought. But Reznor has actually stated the G stands for Greed, which makes a lot of sense when you consider lyrics like “Ain’t gonna worry about no future generations and a/And I’m sure somebody’s gonna figure it out.” The lyrics are so poignant and critical that it could just as easily be applied to Bush as well. Things get disturbing on “Meet Your Master,” which talks about someone who has decided to oppose society and is being punished with death. What I really like here are Reznor’s vocals, which are so full of anger and passion to really get the message across. Both are stellar tracks that show why this record is so poignant.

The most unsettling and impressive song is “The Greater Good.” The opening music has more of a hip-hop flavor before light music comes in and twists around as if it’s trying to put the listener in a trance. What makes it really creepy is the way Reznor whispers lines like “Breathe.. us in. Slowly.” With the haunting vocals and the looping music makes it sound like a subliminal message is being broadcast. Reznor pulls off this effect so flawlessly it feels like he’s getting in your head. It’s definitely one of the best tracks on the album. A somewhat peaceful moment comes in the form of “In this Twilight.” The music is very pretty and calming creating this relaxing mood. The content sort of keeps up this tone: it seems to be about people watching the skies as the world comes to an end. They know they will die, but think they’ll be better off in the end. Guess it’s not that mellow in the end.

What’s interesting about the record is a lot of music goes back to the early days of NIN. Really harsh, aggressive synth beats take over “The Warning,” while “Me, I’m Not” features a lot of beeps and boops in the music layered over a looping drumbeat. These tracks along with others like “Survivalism” are electronic and synth based, much like Reznor’s earlier material. Sometimes the tracks make you think of albums like Pretty Hate Machine or The Downward Spiral. The difference is it never sounds like Reznor is repeating himself. Rather, he’s uses noise filled music to match the chaotic and violent theme of the songs. He does branch out on tracks like “God Given,” which employs a rap style to his vocals and “My Violent Heart,” which uses hip-hip influences like record scratching to get it’s gritty tone, but even fans of his earliest work will find something to latch onto.

Overall, the album gets 9/10. Many say that NIN’s third release is their most underrated, but for me this one takes that title. Not only is it filled with catchy, synth based song reminiscent of Reznor earlier material, there’s also music that goes beyond his comfort zone. And with a theme about a dystopian Big Brother-esque society, it’s a complex album. It takes several listens before you grasp everything that’s being said. Still, since the record is so great you won’t mind experiencing the music again.