Since the first time I heard Trent Reznor as Nine Inch Nails, I’ve been transfixed. There’s never been an act that’s touched me in the way nin has, and today we countdown the Top Ten songs by Nine Inch Nails. Enjoy.
10) Right where It Belongs, With Teeth
Nin has plenty of very aggressive songs, but they also have constructed quite a few mellower, poignant ones. This is one of the better cuts, but it’s also less known. Probably one of the best, more focused songs on the “With Teeth” comeback album, it has shades of both old and new nin. To me it’s a song about being clear that you’re the problem, but somehow having to figure out how to become the solution. Seeing it live, it’s a nice break and introspective segment in an otherwise brutal two hour stampede. Pull some video’s up. It’s an emotional ride, and one I’m glad he chose to share with us.
9) In This Twilight, Year Zero
One of my favorite time periods of being a nin fan was without doubt the YZ ARG campaign. Finding new clues all over the internet, looking at images in a post apocalyptic United States was the perfect way to get fans pumped. This song is more hopeful again, but in it hopefulness there’s a certain amount of hesitance. The album is about a very close future that we could see ourselves involved in if we keep on with our current lack of priority and care for our system and care of our environment. It’s a grim fucking place. I always imagined this song as an amazing opener, but for people who saw the “ Lights in the Sky” tour, it also is an amazing closer.
8) Burn, Natural Born Killers Soundtrack
Easily in the top five moments of Reznor at his angriest. Originally meant as part of the “Downward Spiral,” and eventually included on the B – Sides, you can clearly understand it’s placement. The buildup is epic, and seeing it live for the first time was awesome. At the breakdown of “I’m gonna burn this whole world down,” you couldn’t even hear the band over the capacity crowd. It sent the crowd into an even crazier frenzy then we were already in. Speaking again of videos, this one is very, Very strange. While Trent has maintained his place in music innovations, sometimes I wish he’d come out with a song like this again, if not just to remind people he still can fuck shit up.
7) Wish, Broken
Another angsty song, I see a pattern. This is always a sure fire killer at the concerts. I may be wrong, but for this song I believe they have consistently used similar lighting patterns at every show I’ve seen. It’s a whirlwind, and the video, set in a very dark, slavery like cage, is appropriate. Also, seeing them perform this song alongside Dillinger Escape Plan at Bonnaroo 2009 was the perfect amount of destruction. Dillinger clearly has learned well how to wreck instruments.
6) Please. The Fragile (Right disc)
The beats on this song are very groovy, but not in the Bob Marley way. For my money there aren’t a lot of musicians who can perfectly meld the way a song sounds like Reznor. It’s been said that TR is a better producer than nearly anyone. His understanding of controls and sound effects is untouchable. He’s one of a few who are constantly expanding their catalogue in terms of mixing. This album as a whole is a perfect example. Listen to it on a surround sound speaker set up, or really good headphones. It’s been long rumored that this is being remastered for a special edition, and when it does come out, I’m sure it will be every bit of an advance it sound as the Pretty Hate Machine remastered was compared to the original.
5) The Way out is Through, the Fragile ( Right disc)
I finally, FINALLY got to see this performed at Bonnaroo 2009. Most people who know me, know I’m a sucker for epic intro’s and openers, and this is the best first song on any album he’s made. You can feel the tension bubbling up and gradually overflowing and the sounds become more dense and you know something big is about to hit. For a song with less than 20 words, it delivers on all fronts. Truly a powerful song, and a perfect way to start the second part of his greatest work.
4) Just Like You Imagined, The Fragile ( Left disc)
I’ve never seen song used better as an accompaniment to a film trailer until I saw it in the 300 trailer. It works perfectly, in terms of the trailer and in terms of the Spartan warriors themselves. Once it has its mind made up, it doesn’t stop, and it will never let up. It will keep coming until it gets what it deserves. In short terms, it’s just like you imagined. Over the running time of the song it launches you high speed into tense moments, and the song is better for it. Of all the shining moments represented on “The Fragile,” one of the most consistently entertaining is when we enter into a situation where everything is “Just Like You Imagined.”
3) Reptile, The Downward Spiral
The slow keyboard opening over some type of mechanical device foreshadows the terror and the torture to come. Listening to the songs over time your opinions change. This is true for any real fan of music. This song to me is the filthiest, most submissive song in the band’s repertoire. The “She” in the song comes off to me a cunning predator, willing to harm herself to ultimately obtain victory over her opponents. She wants to take your essence, and leave you with a feeling of nostalgia for having given it to her, voluntarily or not. The line “Need to contaminate, to alleviate this loneliness” also strikes me as a horrible person who isn’t secure unless we all drown in her sorrow. This, without a doubt, is a song about making clean thing, whatever they are, just as dirty as we are so there’s no sanctuary.
2) Ruiner, the Downward Spiral
I really don’t know what this song is about, but it reminds me again of dominance. TDS album as a whole is about a man slowly losing his sanity and seeking destruction, in many different forms. The great part about the album is that you’re never sure exactly at what point his mind betrays him, and if you’re even hearing the same person. As the album progresses (This song is right in the middle) you can clearly see the forces working against our main character, but he simply is no match for whatever he’s facing. Some albums slow down towards the middle. It helps to give listeners a rest. For this album, a rest is simply not an option. There’s a reason this album is still one of the best from the 1990’s. Reznor brought us, and showed us a place that was cold, and wretched, and we loved him for it.
1) We’re in This Together, the Fragile (Left Disc)
This album suffered from what I call the Pinkerton effect. It’s a brilliant album, but for the more casual fans wanting a Downward Spiral 2, it simply wasn’t enough. Having said that, the Fragile builds on the sounds and technologies of TDS and goes further. For one, this song is one the first time we hear anything even remotely positive and reassuring. It’s not a mellow song, but it accomplishes its tasks. I’ve probably heard this song two thousand or so times, and it still makes me smile and giddy like a child. It overshadows all of the other songs on the album, yet still it’s one of the least played songs in the NIN live catalogue. Years ago I remember an interview where TR said it was the best song he ever wrote, and he knew he couldn’t do it justice in concert, so he let it be. Maybe one of these days I can stop spending endless amounts of money seeing them live. But first, I must have my WITT live.