No Good Bands – Nine Inch Nails

I’m not sure when we started asking elderly men who don’t spend a lot of time looking for new music what the sounds of the future are, but I would also never describe anything as “Nietzsche’s ‘God is dead’ to a nightclubbing beat.” Which is something that Rolling Stone made David Bowie say about Nine Inch Nails, the 94th greatest band of all time (except not really).

reznor studio

Ooooh! Scary! The serious sound engineer is going to come get us! Let’s see what this scary music is all about.

What the hell is “God money”? Here’s the first key to understanding Nine Inch Nails: it all sounds like it means something, but it doesn’t. This is perfect, because then it can mean something to everybody. Nobody has to spend any time figuring anything out. The most Reznor does is nudge you towards a mood. In this case, that mood is defiant.

No you can’t take it

No you can’t take it

No you can’t take that away from me

Take what? Freedom? Pride? My weekend by grounding me? You can’t take that away from me, and you know what else, Geoff? You’re not my dad, you’re my stepdad. So, here’s the chorus:

Head like a hole!

Black as your soul!

I’d rather die than give you control!!!!!

Step-parents across America were shaking in their boots at that chorus. Was this satanic? Communism? Cyberpunk? What were our kids listening to? What was the message here?

Bow down before the one you serve.

You’re going to get what you deserve.

Basically, if you follow any instructions, something bad will happen. Take that, George Bush (the older one)! Basically, this is Fight The Power but without the messy black people politics that are hard to get along with, and nicer singing.

Look at all the fun the angry future people are having! They do cartwheels and everything. And listen to Trent’s message: a huge pile of fuckin’ f-bombs. And, ultimately, he’s an optimist this time around:

Things are bad!

Things are terrible!

I’m fuckin’ 26 years old!

Wish there was something real

Wish there was something true

Wish there was something real in this world full of you

That’s right, GEOFF. I’m sick of this GEOFF world full of GEOFF rules and you know what? Fuckin’ GEOFF hypocrisy. That’s right, Geoff. I saw you sucking back a Labatt Ice in the garage, and now you’re telling ME I can’t go to Evan’s party on Friday because he wears fishnet sleeves and a motorcycle chain necklace? I wish there was something real in the GEOFF world of STEPDAD GEOFF. I’m going to the fucking mall.

By 1994, Nine Inch Nails really took over the mall. Even jock guys were listening to Nine Inch Nails. Let’s be real: 100% of the popularity of Nine Inch Nails is from the date rape/sex shame lyrics of Closer. Every teenaged boy wants to fuck someone like an animal and feel them from the inside, and every teenaged girl wanted to hear the inner thoughts of teenaged guys come from Trent Reznor because no teenaged guy was going to say that shit in front of a teenaged girl. And, here’s where it gets really tricky: if a teenaged guy said any of this to a teenaged girl without Closer playing in the background, it wouldn’t have gone well at all.

Get it, Geoff? I HURT MYSELF TO SEE IF I STILL FEEL. THE PAIN IS THE ONLY THING THAT’S REAL. Evan slow it down I’m falling behind. GEOFF CLOSE THE BEDROOM DOOR NO EVAN AND I AREN’T GOING TO MAKE OUT HE’S FAT. Sorry Evan, I’m sorry but GOD Geoff is such a Nazi gay, isn’t he? Why won’t he just leave me alone? He can HAVE my empire of dirt. They let ME down. AMERICA let me down. YES EVAN I KNOW WE LIVE IN CANADA BUT YOU GET IT.


That was what 1994-95 was like for everyone born in 1978.

If you’re putting out a double album in the CD era (that’s 2 Cds! That’s 160 minutes!) you’re making a mistake. For instance, Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness or Wu Tang Forever. What releasing 160 minutes of music means is that you have lost the ability to figure out what people do and do not want to hear, or, in Trent Reznor’s case, you’ve even lost the ability to write an entire song’s worth of lyrics, and decided to just release 4 minutes of you singing “Trying to save myself but my self keeps slipping away”, whatever that means. Unfortunately, that kind of argybargy worked on your audience 5 years ago now made them think you really meant it and they’ve started to wonder if maybe you didn’t have the same kinds of adult problems. A year and a half away at college made them realize what Geoff had and why everybody was suddenly kind of giving Geoff a break. He’s not such a bad guy.

By 2005, anybody who had lost their virginity to “Reptile” from The Downward Spiral may have been surprised to see this weird Mac ad masquerading as a Nine Inch Nails video. Trent talks about not fitting in and being alone and things not being real and hurting himself really bluntly here- he doesn’t dress up his lyrical cliches at all:

Less concerned about fitting into the world

Your world that is

Cause it doesn’t really matter anymore

No it doesn’t really matter anymore

None of this really matters anymore


Yes I am alone but then again I always was

As far back as I can tell

I think maybe it’s because

Because you were never really real to begin with

I just made you up to hurt myself

Who’s he playing to at this point? The youngest Nine Inch Nails fans at this point would have been at least 25, which is entirely too old to take those lyrics seriously. In fact, I don’t see how Trent Reznor could remember the lyrics of any song he’d written up to that point and then take the lyrics for “Only” seriously. Does David Bowie like this song, too? Does this song “contain a beauty that attracts and repels in equal measure”?

Forget teenage angst: Trent Reznor has somehow perfected encroaching middle age angst.

Everywhere now reminding me

I am not who I used to be

I’m afraid this has just begun

Consequences for what I’ve done, yeah

Man, it’s like Bruce Hornsby for that time you looked up your ex girlfriend on Facebook and suddenly realized you were being a creep and so you turned off your phone to make the weird feeling go away. You aren’t who you used to be, buddy! You’re 35 now! And here’s the best part:

I said goodbye but I

I had to try

I came back, I came back haunted

C-c-c-came back haunted


They tried to tell me but I

I couldn’t stop myself and I

I came back, I came back haunted

C-c-c-came back haunted

He’s talking about the things you thought were fun in your twenties! Have you been to a bar full of twentysomethings lately? It’s horrible. Oh, I’m sorry. I should have started this paragraph by saying “Stop reading now if you were born after 1983”. The rest of you: Seriously, have you done it? Have you hung out with twentysomethings? It’s impossible. It’s like the whole bar is screaming “GET OUT” like The Amityville Horror is happening in a Haddaway video.

trent 2013

Or maybe he came back haunted because we didn’t have the internet when we were teenagers in the ’90s, and he tried to go a weekend without his smartphone and everyone was freaking out that he was dead.

About Matt Collins

Matt Collins is a musician (Ninja High School), cartoonist (Sexy), jock (Manhunt), and comedian (Matt Collins) in Toronto, Ontario. Please buy more Matt Collins. [Other Posts By Matt]