Nine Inch Nails
Sat Sept 24
1 Center Court
Certain albums epitomize adolescence. My awkward years are best remembered to the sound of Nine Inch Nails' 1989 debut Pretty Hate Machine, a cassette coursing with so much bitter, bilious fluid, it practically corroded my stereo—both from the amount of venomous energy it helped release and from the number of repeat listens. For numerous moody teenagers this was the soundtrack to our lives.
Over the years, Reznor hasn't exactly blunted his masochistic tendencies, even if he's slow to release them as new albums. He continues to warp the face of modern rock with coarse records, which slather bruising pop melodies, blasting metal beats and harsh industrial flourishes over blunt admissions like, "I want to fuck you like an animal." He's been "Hurt," Fragile, fallen in a Downward Spiral, each time re-emerging with supernatural force—trends in popular music and self-help therapy be damned.
Nine Inch Nails' latest release, With Teeth, conceals the fangs only for momentary, maudlin intros. Reznor is almost as savage a force at 40 as he was at 24, turning acrid emotions into switchblade symphonies that are as dynamic as they are demented. Teeth has been criticized for displaying Reznor's stunted growth, for revealing a man stuck with adolescent complaints unbecoming to a musician of his age and stature. But as recent interviews detailing past struggles with substance abuse and self-loathing detail, some artists never outgrow the shouting matches in their heads. Personally, even as I've (possibly) moved beyond the halfcocked rage that comes with being the frustrating combo of overzealous and underage, the beautiful brutality and jagged musical embellishments Reznor uses to meticulously decorate rock keep me locked under this madman's spell—and will do so for years to come. n