Music

Nine Inch Nails: Add Violence

A pinch of The Fragile, some With Teeth, a helping of Downward Spiral, a few cups of Hesitation Marks, and a dash of Broken at the end.

As Trent Reznor's career progresses, it becomes easier and easier to compare him to David Bowie, Madonna, Prince, or Led Zeppelin because of the shifts, accelerations, decelerations, explorations, and spirals of his catalog. Add Violence is unique not because it's unlike anything we've heard before; it's everything we've heard before. It recalls every previous Nine Inch Nails album, and yet none in particular.



Nine Inch Nails
ALbum: Add Violence
Label: The Null Corporation
US Physical Release Date: 20017-10-13
UK Physical Release Date: 2017-10-13

A pinch of The Fragile, some With Teeth, a helping of Downward Spiral, a few cups of Hesitation Marks, and a dash of Broken at the end. Yet these tracks would not all fit comfortably on any one of these albums.

“Less Than" reaches even further back to an alternate 1980s version of Nine Inch Nails with a new wave keyboard beat before revving into a hard guitar riff and then settling back to the synthesizer. Lyrics such as “You got what you asked for" and “And you can always justify / The missile trails across the sky again" suggest the song is about our current presidential crisis.

“The Lovers" is a loose, wobbly, anxious look at a man wishing to escape—as usual—from his self and into the perfect “arms of the lovers". The track isn't bad, but it's just okay and the nadir of the EP.

The low, slow beat and skittering, almost atonal piano of the very moving “This Isn't the Place" builds and swells, resting on a long, prolonged moan from Reznor that transforms into a chant and then breaks into a quivering, thin voice separated from a “friend" and lamenting that he “thought we had more time". Now, he just wishes for someone to “carry me, carry me home". We've all been in this place, but no one wants to be. No, this isn't the place. This isn't the place at all. No guitars, no pounding beats, but it's heavy. Very heavy.

“Not Anymore" scrapes along with Reznor horrified that his “feet are nailed to the floor" with “Mouth taped shut / Crippled and frozen with fear" but the song picks up, and Reznor explodes in a self-anthem, declaring that “No, no that doesn't happen round here / I won't forget; I know who I am / No matter what I know who I am / And what I'm doing this for". A complete rejection and refusal of victimization, Reznor empowers himself and vows to be the master of his fate.

The mid-tempo piano-driven “The Background World" could have been a standout on any NIN release and is the final and most powerful track on Add Violence. Lines such as “I will keep myself awake / I know what's coming" are a declaration not to avert one's eyes to uncomfortable truths and to stand completely within the moment in the realization that “There is no moving past / There is no better place / There is no future point".

About four minutes in the track jettisons the vocals and the piano, and a distorted groove repeats for the remaining eight minutes of the 12-minute track. The predominant opinion seems to be that these eight minutes are some self-indulgent, throwaway fiddle-diddle from Reznor. However, the hardcore has noted other possibilities. For example, one super fan counts the number of times the loop appears as 52, and thus it is a commentary on Reznor's own life since he is 52 years old. Someone else notes the parallels to William Basinki's The Disintegration Loops, a series of music particles played in tape loops that decay with every pass, accompanied by artwork of the New York skyline in the aftermath of 911 and finished the morning thereof. Is “The Background World" political statement through allusion?

To these theories, I add that this sense of listening with anticipation replicates Broken and its 99 tracks of possibilities that listeners in the 1990s, free of Internet cheat sheets and postings, sifted through in case something was hidden. On Broken the first six tracks contain music, and then after 91 one-second tracks of silence, two final, listenable tracks appear to reward the faithful. But, of course, there is nothing ahead in “The Background World", but further disintegration as the loops gradually break down into white noise. Ultimately, we are waiting for nothing, and that may be the most disturbing message of Add Violence.

Linking back the opening track and its political overtones, the final audible words of “The Background World" are “Are you sure / This is what you want". At four minutes in, we say yes. At 12, maybe not. The track, like America's political situation, implies that we had no idea of the full and final extent of what we got ourselves into, but it will not end in any pretty or comprehensible way.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Television

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.

Music

Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.

Music

Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.

Television

Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman
Music

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.

Music

Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.

Music

The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.

Music

Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.

Books

The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.