Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails was by no means the first act to delve into the dark recesses of industrial music, a genre pioneered in the 1980s by bands like Einstürzende Neubauten, Cabaret Voltaire, Front 242 and eventually Ministry. . But they were certainly the first, and may well be the last, to drag it down the pop charts.
Like his protege Marilyn Manson, Reznor was very shocking, as evidenced by the lyrics to NIN’s breakthrough 1994 single, “Closer”, with his radio sanitized chorus “I want – you like an animal.” Borrowing a squelchy sample from Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing” and the quiet dynamics of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, it paved the way for a career that spanned decades, from wallowing in mud to Woodstock 2 at their virtual induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame alongside Depeche Mode, the Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Biggie Smalls and T. Rex.
On recent dates, Reznor and company have begun backing themselves with “Happiness in Slavery” (which had been missing from their setlist for the better part of two decades), releasing David Bowie covers – in particular, “Fame and “I’m Afraid of Americans” — and offering enough iconic songs to satisfy longtime fans, wherever possible.