Broken

Nine Inch Nails

Nothing/Interscope Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/02/1998

I still remember the first time I ever heard Nine Inch Nails. On a spring morning in 1992, I was getting ready for another day of classes in college. I had just been sent Broken, the then-latest release from Trent Reznor and crew, for review in the school newspaper. I grabbed the tape, popped it in the Walkman, and headed out the door towards the academic building. As I hit the doors to the classroom, this wonderful electronic noise slammed the earphones into my head... and I was hooked. I almost kept the tape on during Basic Microeconomics... and seeing how much I actually learned in that class, I wish I had.

Recorded at a sensitive period in Reznor's life (he was fighting with his then-label TVT - he wouldn't give them any more material, and they said he couldn't record unless they put it out), he banged off these six tracks without permission from "the record company", as he put it in the press release. Whereas his first release my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Pretty Hate Machine painted a bleak picture with an electronic but still pop vein, Broken dumped in more anger than one could believe, and removed any vestige of pop music left in his tortured soul.

The worst thing I can say about Broken is that it's too damned short. With only six songs (two of those being instrumentals), you quickly find yourself wanting Reznor to continue leading you on a guided tour of his own private hell. Unfortunately, six tracks is all you get - but, oh, what a wonderful selection of songs!

The guitar feedback loops of "Pinion" quickly lead into "Wish," one of the smashes off this album. Reznor again proves that he knows how to hold a tune, even though his voice seems to be ready to break under the hate-filled shouting he does throughout the album. It's one of the most intense few minutes I've ever heard in the world of rock music, but you can tell from every single note that this is pain and anger that is not being faked for the sake of the dollar. Reznor was pissed off and depressed, and he was going to let anyone who cared know just how he felt.

The intensity continues through the next two vocal tracks, "Last" and "Happiness In Slavery" (hmm, a subtle slam against "the record company", using "slave" long before Prince?), the latter becoming a hit track. In a sense, it's surprising to think that such intense music could become popular in the dance halls and on the radio - but then again, it's surprising to think of how many people felt a kinship to Reznor and what he was singing about.

The remaining tracks - the instrumental "Help Me I Am In Hell" and the vocal "Gave Up" - aren't of the same superior caliber as the rest of the material on Broken, but they still hold their own quite well, and are worth checking out.

Broken lives up to its name by breaking away from the pop core that was still at the center of Nine Inch Nails's music around the time of Pretty Hate Machine. Ironically, their next full-length release, The Downward Spiral, would bring Reznor pop success without him sacrificing his musical values. (I can't say he's done the same in recent years, though.)

Broken still remains one of the most intense albums I've ever listened to, and is a wonderful way to introduce yourself to the tortured world of Nine Inch Nails.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Nothing/Interscope Records, and is used for informational purposes only.