Deep Album Cuts Vol. 110: Nine Inch Nails

This week, Nine Inch Nails is releasing Bad Witch, a 30-minute record that's nominally an album for commercial reasons, although it completes a trilogy started by the recent EPs Not The Actual Events and Add Violence. It's interesting to see Trent Reznor kind of stumble into the 'short album or EP' debate raised by Kanye West's recent run of 7-song albums. But he has a good history with EPs. 1992's Broken was the band's first top 10 record on the album charts and won them their first Grammy, which set a strong precedent that their shorter collections of new songs stand equal footing with the long ones. So I wanted to do an overview of all those records, short and long.

Nine Inch Nails deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):
1. Something I Can Never Have
2. Terrible Lie
3. Sanctified
4. Gave Up
5. Pinion
6. Last
7. Heresy
8. Mr. Self Destruct
9. Reptile
10. Please
11. No, You Don't
12. Even Deeper
13. Getting Smaller
14. The Beginning Of The End
15. 19 Ghosts III
16. 1,000,000
17. While I'm Still Here
18. The Idea Of You
19. This Isn't The Place

Tracks 1, 2 and 3 from Pretty Hate Machine (1989)
Tracks 4, 5 and 6 from Broken EP (1992)
Tracks 7, 8 and 9 from The Downward Spiral (1994)
Tracks 10, 11 and 12 from The Fragile (1999)
Track 13 from With Teeth (2005)
Track 14 from Year Zero (2007)
Track 15 from Ghosts I-IV (2008)
Track 16 from The Slip (2008)
Track 17 from Hesitation Marks (2013)
Track 18 from Not The Actual Events EP (2016)
Track 19 from Add Violence EP (2017)

As someone who never ventured too deeply into industrial or even metal, I've always had a lot of respect for Nine Inch Nails and their ability to bring some incredibly harsh and dark sounds to the mainstream. Much is made of how many soundalikes Nirvana had, but the mid/late-'90s a pretty huge chunk of rock playlists sounded like them. But there's a certain sexy brooding swagger to their music that really separated them from their contemporaries, a lot of times I think of NIN as, like, a really angry INXS. But I also consider Trent Reznor to be a really brilliant producer and musician, he has a great ear for a wide range of sounds, relative so his fairly narrow emotional bandwidth as a lyricist. As someone who loves to distort synthesizers and drum machines and try to make them sound as visceral as guitars and drums, I find myself being heavily influenced by Reznor.

Of course, Trent Reznor didn't do all this stuff himself, but in the context of the big alt-rock bands of the '90s, he was the closest thing to a one man band or a lone genius creating these big ambitious soundscapes largely on his own. Still, there's a pretty cool range of collaborators on this playlist, including Dave Grohl on "Getting Smaller," Dr. Dre on "Even Deeper," Adrian Belew on "Mr. Self Destruct," Page Hamilton on "No, You Don't," and Lindsey Buckingham and Pino Palladino on "While I'm Still Here."

Pretty Hate Machine has great songs but sounds a little dated now, partly because Reznor's production got so much more layered and sophisticated on the next couple records, and some of the PHM drum and synth sounds felt like they were just left back in the '80s. But even as much as I loved The Downward Spiral, I still feel like something was lost in taking 5 years to drop a double album follow-up. I still fantasize about if there had been a 1997 NIN album of more songs in the vein of "The Perfect Drug." So I never totally took the time to get immersed in The Fragile at the time, I mostly loved "We're In This Together" but found the album to be a little too much of the same stuff. So I enjoyed going back to the album when putting together this playlist and getting hooked on songs like "Please" that I didn't notice much at the time, and the instrumental tracks make more sense in the context of Ghosts I-IV and Reznor's film scores.

Reznor went nearly 6 years without releasing an album after The Fragile and it kind of started to feel like the band's legacy was sealed off and contained within the late '80s and '90s. And then he released 4 in the space of 3 years, spurred in part by the realization that he could self-release surprise albums like Ghosts I-IV and The Slip direct to fans, and there was some really exciting music in that run that really revitalized my appreciation for the band. Of all the A-list alt-rock bands that sold millions in the '90s, I'd make the argument that NIN has released the largest amount of worthwhile music since the '90s. I had to focus on the band's watershed early work for the bulk of this playlist, but I hope the last 7 tracks are a good representation of how excellent the later stuff has been and why I'm excited for Bad Witch.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
Vol. 99: INXS
Vol. 100: Stevie Wonder
Vol. 101: The Cranberries
Vol. 102: Def Leppard
Vol. 103: Bon Jovi
Vol. 104: Dire Straits
Vol. 105: The Police
Vol. 106: Sloan
Vol. 107: Peter Gabriel
Vol. 108: Led Zeppelin
Vol. 109: Dave Matthews Band
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