Chapter Two: Nine Inch Nails Remixed
By Brett Beach
March 17, 2011
But my favorites from the album are the opener and closer, “All The Love in the World” and “Right Where It Belongs," the former for the way Reznor drops the expected end to the line “Sometimes I get so lonely I could...” and for the unexpected appearance of piano and then drums at the three-quarters mark to replace the skittering beat of the early portion with a rave-up feel. As for the latter song, I choose it for its sonic texture and music-box feel and that unnerving “noise” (audience screeching at a concert, animals howling, insects buzzing?) Taken together, those tracks showed me a new life in the band and paved the way for 2007’s Year Zero, which I think is the band’s best studio album.
There is a lot more I would like to say about NIN, aside from the topic at hand, but now it is time for the topic to be at hand.
Fixed (Halo 6/ December 1992)
Track under discussion: Screaming Slave.
I bought Broken (still, I would argue, one of the harshest, most dissonant albums ever to crack the Billboard Top 10) when it came out in late September ‘92 (around the same time as slightly more pleasant albums from REM, Peter Gabriel, and 10,000 Maniacs) and I don’t think I actually made it through a first listen at the time. It fucking scared me. (This irrational fear was also why I did not attend the NIN/Bowie tour in 1995.) I was not aware of the existence of Fixed until I saw it on my dorm mate’s CD rack my freshman year of college. I vaguely recall sneaking covert listens of it when he would go away for the weekend, but it wasn’t until nearly a decade later that I actually gave it a proper front to back listen. If Broken is the sound of NIN pushing a song as far as it will go and still hold on to a beat — and I am big believer that NIN does find a way to keep that hook alive at all costs — then Fixed is the result of that beat/hook being clamped down on the work table and torn into with a drill.
I would love for “Screaming Slave” to be the demo track at home audio stores nationwide. On the one hand, it may be the harshest remix NIN has recorded to date — eight minutes in total, it’s a veritable symphony of cacophony building in intensity and tone for the first two minutes before a recognizable beat from its source “Happiness in Slavery” can be even found, and ending on 90 seconds of effects after a brief 30 second interlude of relative quiet (albeit pulled from a NIN promo video where a man is being tortured.) But it also employs what proves to be a recurring technique among NIN remixes, burying the song’s lyrics underneath layers of noise or focusing in on a particular set of lines or verse and leaving the chorus out in the cold.
Speaking to my earlier mention of humor, the Broken/Fixed dichotomy is simplistic but it never fails to elicit a chuckle from me (as does the potential double meaning of the title, “fixed” as in a neutered animal). I also like the deceptively calm blue of the color contrasted with Broken’s hellfire orange and Fixed’s simple mission statement in the inside liner: “featuring various interpretations of songs that appear in their proper form on the Broken EP”. Fixed is the only one of NIN’s remix albums that did not chart on the Billboard Top 200.