Nine Inch Nails Closer Island CID/CIDX 596 [UK] Disc 1 - Total Running Time 30 min 00 sec 1. Closer 6:26 2. Closer (Deviation) 6:15 3. Closer (Further Away) 5:54 4. Closer (Precursor) 7:15 5. Closer (Internal) 4:15 Disc 2 - Total Running Time: 22 min 47 sec 1. Closer To God 5:06 2. Heresy (Blind) 5:32 3. Memorabilia 7:21 4. March Of The Fuckheads 4:44
As those who read my review earlier this year of Trent Reznor's latest album, _The Downward Spiral_ will be aware, I find the direction taken by Nine Inch Nails of late to be rather frustrating. Musically speaking, Reznor has matured considerably - the album was beautifully textured and rich in places - while his lyrics have remained stuck in a quagmire of cliched teen-angst self-pity and anger. For me at least, the appeal of the former is offset considerably by the latter.
I passed on the first single to be taken from the album. I didn't like "March Of The Pigs" much on the album, so I didn't feel that I really needed an extra half-dozen or so mixes of it. However, the latest NIN single "Closer" seemed a lot more interesting. The track had caught my attention when I heard it on the album, while the remixers employed included some interesting names. Add to that a cover version of the old Soft Cell hit "Memorabilia" and my local Our Price selling the two CD singles that make up this release at a very reasonable price, and it seemed too good a chance to miss.
The first of the two discs is a slightly extended version of the track that appeared on _The Downward Spiral_. Musically the song owes a lot more to Reznor's debut _Pretty Hate Machine_ than the EPs that appeared between that album and his second. Synths dominate, the sounds used are surprisingly light and fragile in places and the song's beat tends more towards Prince than Ministry. The lyrics are enough to earn the disc one of those little "Parental Advisory" stickers and are sufficiently explicit sufficiently often that this track is unlikely to get much airplay (in the UK at least).
The first of the remixes of "Closer" is by Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto. It marries the vocal track of the original with a more laid-back beat and is reasonably clever - it doesn't sound like an obvious remix, yet there's very little of the original track left, since Dangers has successfully preserved the essence of the NIN sound while shedding much of the substance.
Next is the first of two remixes by Bill Kennedy and a horde of others. Again it takes the track in new directions, moving from a quiet and subdued intro into a percussive mess and out again. Not bad, but more...gratuitous than the Dangers remix. The fourth remix sees Reznor's material reunited once more with Coil. As they did on the _Fixed_ EP they've done something rather special with the track, reworking it considerably. Reznor's vocals have been heavily processed and now float over a background of interesting noise textures with a very understated beat. Of course, just to be awkward, in places it's the exact opposite - Reznor's unaltered voice over a powerful beat, occasional guitars and little else - but I'm sure they only did that to make it difficult for me to write a concise review. Either way, this is easily the best remix on the disc.
The final remix is another by Kennedy and co. Lots of distortion, beefed-up beat, and so forth. Ho-hum.
The first disc isn't that bad as a whole but only the Coil remix really stands out as doing anything particularly interesting with the track. So...
Erland Rating: +1
The second disc is rather more varied musically, with four distinct tracks. "Closer To God" is, as the title suggests, yet another remix of "Closer", this time by Trent Reznor himself. It's rather more appealing than most of the remixes on the first disc, since instead of adding Yet More Distortion the remix, for the most part at least, heads in the other direction, beefing up the synths. I'd place it in the same league as the Coil remix, but for very different reasons.
Next is a remix of "Heresy". Given that it's remixed by Dave Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy, and Anthony Valcic (numerous productions credits in the synth-industrial vein) I was rather disappointed by this. True, I prefer it to the original, but I really didn't like the original very much, so that's not really saying anything. Still, there's some nice vocal treatments in there and some of the added synths are nice too.
Now I was aware that Trent Reznor's musical roots lay in the synth-pop sounds of the early 80s (Human League, Depeche Mode) as much his other heroes such as Cabaret Voltaire, but I'd never really pictured him as being a Soft Cell fan. For this reason, the appearance of a cover of the old SC track "Memorabilia" here came as a pleasant surprise. True, it's a rather strange cover, with a weird crunchy beat, spoken voices drifting in and out of the background and various odd electronic effects flitting around, but it's a pleasant change to hear Reznor singing lyrics that don't centre around how the entire universe stinks. "Keychains and snowstorms" just don't seem very Reznor-esque. Now if it were *just* chains...
"March Of The Fuckheads" is an interesting Adrian Sherwood reworking of "March Of The Pigs" that combines a straightforward beat with various electronic overlays and effects (some of which are rather reminiscent of Severed Heads). Interesting enough, but it doesn't really go anywhere and just chugs along for a little over four minutes before fading away.
Again, not a bad disc but not a great one. I think the ideal release would have merged both discs together and perhaps shed some of the less interesting remixes. Unfortunately, this would have broken the guidelines for UK chart inclusion, which explains the 2 CD format used over here. Maybe the US release will come out rather better.
Erland Rating: +1
A hypertext version of this review can be found on the World-Wide Web at
Al Crawford - firstname.lastname@example.org Department Of Computer Science, The University of Edinburgh Rm 1410, JCMB, Kings Buildings, Mayfield Rd, EDINBURGH, EH9 3JZ, Scotland Tel: +44 (0) 31 650 5165 Fax: +44 (0) 31 667 7209