Men are often surprised when I tell them I love industrial music. “Isn’t it a bit… hardcore for women’s tastes?” they ask.Honey, please. Step aside.
Strangely enough, girls hardly ever blink at the suggestion that I
really, truly do love bands like Nine Inch Nails, and many times I find
that they have just as big a collection of NIN discs as I have. After
all, Trent Reznor, NIN’s frontman and founder, sings (and sometimes
screams) about things we all have at least some familiarity with:
frustration, anger, disappointment, and unrequited devotion. Nine Inch
Nails is great when you need to get your aggression out, or when you
just want to be loud. On the flip side, the newer albums (particularly Ghosts I-IV)
explore deeper, richer themes of emotional texture and intuitive
response. Whether you are looking for deep meaning or just want to
skate along on the surface tension, truly there is something in the NIN
catalogue for everyone.
Nine Inch Nails started life nearly two decades ago as a straight-up
force square in the middle of the industrial genre. Sequenced
electronic structures housed hard, dirty guitar sounds. Reznor’s vocal
style at the time, which was mostly anger peppered with resentment,
often leaned toward the emo, and sometimes downright whiny. The whole
package was a dream come true for the likes of the self-perceived
downtrodden, ranging from the recently dumped all the way over to angsty
high school students.
As the band’s journey progressed and Reznor’s musical abilities
matured, Nine Inch Nails began to branch out into ever more complicated
and interesting artistic paths. Uncontrolled rage was channeled into
more focused and sophisticated darkness, without losing any of the edge
the earlier material possessed. The songs started to have more lyrical
depth, and triggered a much greater range of emotional responses.
Within the past few years Reznor and his crew have been experimenting a
lot within the area where melancholy meets calm. These newer efforts
may not pack the hostile punch of NIN’s previous work, but they
certainly display a mastery of the darkly subtle and intricate, and they
seem to fit well into the logical progression of the band’s artistry.
Trent Reznor is also currently doing some very interesting work in
the realm of file sharing and Creative Commons licensing. His web site
is a labyrinth of songs and multitrack files available for downloading,
remixing, and uploading again. Members of the web site (signup is
free) are encouraged not only to take the files for their own use, but
to create new works from them, and to share the results with the site’s
community of professional, amateur, and aspiring musicians. Reznor
himself is deeply involved with the creations this project generates,
even including some of the higher quality fan-made remixes on one of his
Nine Inch Nails has a huge body of work, so if you want to try this
band out and you don’t know where to start, the discography can be quite
overwhelming. Complete newbies or those who are a bit unsure might
want to start out with one of the more recent efforts such as The Slip,
which combines a smattering of traditional NIN volatility with a hefty
dose of more laid-back elements, and even some quiet moments. The more
adventurous or aggression-loving among you may be better suited to an
immediate plunge into the livelier corners of the back catalogue, such
as Broken or the commercially successful The Downward Spiral.
If you’re into instrumental or ambient music, or you just like a bit
of haunting sound texture to chill out to, you can’t go wrong with the
aptly-titled Ghosts I-IV, a collection that makes a good starting point if you have a strong uncertainty about industrial music.
Most Nine Inch Nails albums can be purchased directly and downloaded or shipped from their web site, and their most recent album, entitled The Slip, is available as a 100% free download, so you can try out this multifaceted, innovative music risk-free.