REVIEW: Nine Inch Nails – Broken (1992)

 

NINE INCH NAILS – broken (1992 Interscope EP) / halo five

I remember seeing this in my local HMV store in 1992.  I thought, “Nine Inch Nails have cool packaging,” because you didn’t see too many digipacks back then.  It’s cooler than just that though, with three panels unfolding in a “T” shape each with a letter on it.  “n”…”i”…”n”…

Gotta give Trent Reznor credit for packaging, he usually has very striking and original concepts for his discs.  Also cool how the packaging for broken nicely complements the remix album fixed once both are bought.  broken technically qualifies as an EP I guess, or a mini-album maybe, even though it is longer than most classic Van Halen albums.

BROKENThere is a version of broken out there that was once considered one of the Holy Grails of Nine Inch Nails collectibles.  I guess the advent of eBay made it much easier to get, because eBay has one as of this writing for $12, free shipping, VG condition.  It is a 2 CD version, with the two “hidden” tracks on a separate 3″ CD enclosed within the digipack.  This was supposedly discontinued because unscrupulous store owners were taking out the bonus CD and selling it separately.  Or so goes the legend.  I think cost would also have been a factor in discontinuing the bonus CD.  On re-releases like I own, the bonus tracks are included as #98 and #99, with 91 tracks of 1 second silences preceding them.

“Pinion” serves as a brief intro to “Wish” and they are always presented together.  This serves to intensify the mighty “Wish”, the heaviest song released by Nine Inch Nails up to the time.  What sounds like a blowtorch punctuates a frantic drum rhythm.  This progresses into a mélange of bizarre sounds, shredding guitars and a sledgehammer riff.  “Last” follows, a slower more relentless riff.  At times its the industrial version of “Sad But True”, but with a synthpop style chorus.  Reznor maintains his angry snarl throughout, bitching about whatever he’s bitching about.  “Pigs” are referenced, he sounds upset, angry, sad…aww!

“Help Me I Am In Hell” is one of the coolest tracks, a quiet two-minute guitar n’ noise respite.  It sounds a lot like some of the quieter moments that would later come on The Downward Spiral (a genius album if there ever was one).  Then, “Happiness in Slavery” serves as a barrage to the noggin’, Trent yelling stuff about slaves screaming in a distorted voice.  There are some cool, ascending metal-y guitar licks and another synthpop chorus.  If I had to guess, I’d say the lyrics are a thinly veiled discourse on getting screwed by your record label, as Trent was at the time.

The final song of this batch of tracks is “Gave Up”, another fast metallic song.  It’s hard to discern the melodies from it, such is the distortion of the track.  It does have a bad-ass keyboard solo though. Trent sounds like he’s singing on a broken tape deck and the guitars sound like they’re on the same cassette too.  It’s my least favourite song on the EP, although I remember it had a cool “live” style music video with Marilyn Manson on guitar.

After 91 tracks of silence (a quaint-oh-so 90’s gimmick that I sidestepped by not ripping them) are the bonus cover songs.  “Physical (You’re So)” is an Adam and the Ants tune, morphed into something that sounds like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and Motley Crue.  This is a great track.  Among the best on the album.  There are jackhammer sounds, plenty of distortion and unidentifiable but cool sounds.  “Suck” is a Pigface cover (from Gub) that Trent originally sang and co-wrote anyway.  It has a powerful chorus and riff much like the rest of broken, but the verses (pun intended) kind of suck.  That funky bassline…it’s not my thing, I guess.

One weird thing.  I don’t know where it came from, but I somehow got a booklet for a Japanese version of broken.  I found it inside my copy…I must have found it laying around at the store.  Kinda neat to have, I can’t read a word of it, but cool.  My CD appears to just be the regular single disc US release otherwise.

4.5/5 stars

More Nine Inch Nails at mikeladano.com:  RECORD STORE TALES Part 222:  Mr. Self Destruct

9 comments

  1. This was the best time to be a NIN fan. So much awesomeness. They were in and of their time, absolutely perfectly.

    Oh man, all the extra tracks, I remember when they used to do that. Tool’s Undertow used to drive me nuts. I wanted the carrot apocalypse track right away, not after all that silence! But I did like you did, I just ripped the CD without those tracks.

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  2. Okay, admittedly not a NIN fan…actually haven’t made myself listen to them (it’s okay to be shocked by this, considering my breadth of music knowledge and me listening to everything under the sun…do you suggest this album as a “forray into NIN” or another?

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    1. Absolutely I would, this is a great first album to enjoy from them. I don’t think Trent Reznor will ever top the genius of The Downward Spiral, but Broken is their most accessible in my opinion.

      Trent also has collaborated with Queens of the Stone Age and Dave Grohl on several projects too.

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