Watchmen, Alan Moore’s beloved 1987 graphic novel, is not an easy property to adapt. It’s such a deconstruction of its own medium and genre, superhero comic books, that even attempting to adapt it into another medium almost seems like it’s missing the point. After years of people trying and failing to get a movie version … More »
There is never a bad time to go see Nine Inch Nails live. They are one of the great arena-level rock bands currently operating, and one of the only bands from the alt-rock early ’90s that’s still crushing at anywhere near peak capacity. But this might be an especially good time to go see Nine … More »
“Happiness In Slavery,” a single from the 1992 EP Broken, remains one of the heaviest songs in the Nine Inch Nails oeuvre. Its torture-centric video was famously banned by MTV. Trent Reznor used the song to end his set at Woodstock ’94, and when that live version was included on a compilation album, he won … More »
Over the last 11 years under a few different iterations, Lisbon’s NOS Alive has sneakily become one of Europe’s more appealing festivals. It isn’t hard for international fests to be more enticing than the ones stateside these days, where lineups have become increasingly repetitive. NOS Alive, like other European festivals, tends to offer something more … More »
By 2025, all movies will be soundtracked by Trent Reznor. The Nine Inch Nails frontman and composer Atticus Ross have worked together to score 2010’s The Social Network, 2011’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2014’s Gone Girl, and 2016’s Before The Flood, among others. The duo won the Academy Award for Best Original Score … More »
Nine Inch Nails
[The Null Corporation; 2018]
Every band lucky enough to sustain itself for decades is often accompanied by a staunch fanbase who perceive their earlier days with greater fondness. To them, the band’s new sound pales in comparison to their favorite albums. But for any collective, a sonic evolution is not only inevitable, but healthy.
Enter Nine Inch Nails, who are celebrating their 30-year anniversary with Bad Witch. In 2018, Trent Reznor has grown up, and his music has matured alongside him. The Reznor of 2018 is now a collaborator, counting Atticus Ross as an official band member. He’s also a happily married father, makes coin-scoring soundtracks for movies, and gets political in his interviews (especially as of late). While his rage is still as palpable as ever, at least now he’s got some balance.
Most importantly, however, is that Nine Inch Nails can make any music they want. Their recent trilogy of albums, concluding with Bad Witch, represents an imperfect snapshot of Reznor unencumbered. His hardcore contingent may believe the group has become consigned to enormous summer festivals and their younger millennial cohort, but Reznor’s experiments still show him pushing the sonic form while he excoriates his demons.
The album’s six tracks are organized into three timbrally similar pairs, with each pair also elongating in duration. The first two grungy purges are something like Year Zero’s intro “Hyperpower!” or the wall of guitars that kick in during “Everything” on Hesitation Marks. I’ll spare you a clever line describing album opener “Shit Mirror,” but it’s not among the best NIN songs. Filled with guitar noodling and electronic feedback (and a cut-to-silence troll midway), the song is so raw it edges into demo territory. It does, however, contain the delicious refrain “New world/ New times/ Mutation feels alright.” Meanwhile, “Mirror” complements “Ahead of Ourselves,” a fast-tempo energizer aligning with Reznor’s latest statements about politics, America, and certain red hat-wearing rappers with staticky lines like “Illusions of enlightenment/ With our snouts in the dirt” and “Celebration of ignorance” amid explosions of noise. Still, both songs are average, with “Ourselves” ending with a fadeout, devoid of resolution.
Bad Witch next zooms out from a single man’s struggle to the travails of the planet. With the stadium rockers out of the way, NIN venture into more uncertain waters. The instrumental “Play the Goddamned Part” is a muddy dirge, where a distorted, reverberated groove jostles against a saxophone freakout reminiscent of music from Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway (to which NIN contributed). “God Break Down the Door” showcases Bowie’s vocal influence and Reznor’s range, vibrato and all. Employing the brass again situates the song amid a smoky jazz club, but the frenetic breakbeats and acid bassline suggest an alien world.
Or perhaps it’s a parallel universe — and we’re trapped in the wrong one. Bad Witch’s last two tracks stretch out, the slow-builds of “I’m Not From This World” and “Over and Out” carefully orchestrating elements like deep bass throbs, eerie mechanical samples, and those signature piano/ukulele sounds that have made appearances for years. Exemplary Nine Inch Nails songs show a dexterity in morphing from heavy moods to light, or vice versa. Tracks such as The Fragile’s “Ripe (With Decay)” are these kinds of delightful journeys. “World” and “Over and Out” only display longer extensions of single ideas, which make them still a few points shy of the band’s best.
Does anyone remember quotes from the good witch of The Wizard of Oz? What was her name — Glenda, Glinda? Chances are, the wicked witch’s lines are easier to recall: getting Dorothy and her little dog too. We can’t seem to look away from villains, whether flagrantly vicious or bizarrely cartoonish. While it would be far less painful to live in a society where brilliance eclipses stupidity and thoughtful discussions hold more currency than insults, that reality seems remote. On Bad Witch, this place is so distant that the irrational starts to make sense. Has the world gone so mad that it can only be explained as falling under a hex? It’s as plausible as anything else.
Trent Reznor already went at Kanye West once during the press cycle for Nine Inch Nails’ new EP album Bad Witch, telling The Guardian that Kanye has “lost his mind.” Now he’s accusing Kanye — as well as the Weeknd — of ripping off the “immersive” live shows he claims NIN pioneered. More »
Nine Inch Nails shared very few details in the lead up to their new album, Bad Witch. But with a legacy that dates back 30 plus years, it’s an absence that’s certainly warranted, even by today’s standards of cultural ubiquity, considering the group’s continued wane into cult-like status.
Originally believed to have been the final installment in the band’s recent trilogy EP series, frontman Trent Reznor insists Bad Witch is an album. EP’s feel less important, he nearly swears. Though if the new album had been an EP like originally expected it would have been just as demanding of a listen. Just thirty minutes and six tracks in total, Bad Witch is textual and progressive. Still severely dependent on the guitars that have driven NIN since the early ’90s, they’re relying on severely off-kilter production; whirling saxophones, ample acid house bass lines, newly poised post-punk drumming.
Saxophones and industrial-tinged synthesizers glitter and delight throughout only to spiral out of control with an unabashed urgency and eerie evocativeness that begs innumerable listens. At the very least its an album that demands the awareness and attention of its listeners, just like the very world it exists in spite of.
Trent Reznor has been making the press rounds to promote Bad Witch, the final installment of Nine Inch Nails’ EP trilogy, which he’s calling an LP so that it won’t slip through the cracks of streaming services. Yesterday he was in the New York Times calling out “the Taylor Swifts of the world” … More »