Conceived in 1988, Nine Inch Nails have been through the ringer of rock and roll cliché more times than most. Enjoying massive success tacked on to the early 90’s grunge scene they have tangled with superstardom, wrestled with drugs, and operated a revolving door system for every lost and haunted musician that could stand up straight for long enough to collect his cheque. Despite these tribulations, they’ve emerged out the other side, perennial survivors Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are NIN’s sole members now and Not the Actual Events is their latest E.P.
It’s been three years since their last full-length record, Hesitation Marks, and Not the Actual Events comes from a similar, if slightly darker, sparser place. Short, sharp opener ‘Branches/Bones’ tackles the issue of inevitable aging and the futility of worrying about it. It sounds like Joy Division covering the Sex Pistols coming from the tape deck of a locked Hi-Ace van parked across the street. A tight little punk song distorted to the point of something completely different but no less immediate.
‘Dear World,’ is a claustrophobic letter to humanity. Stripped back, trance inducing, programed beating, bleeping heaviness. Screamadelica laced with Prozac. ‘She’s Gone Away’ is an industrial-metal, drone-drench dread march. Rocking back and forth like a personality on the verge of splitting. On ‘The Idea of You’ Reznor is deeply conflicted by his notion of self. The distortion laden vocals make him sound like an astronaut lost in the space of his own self-doubt and consciousness.
For a band rapidly approaching its third decade to produce such an intriguing, darkly powerful record is an achievement in itself. After all they’ve been through their drive and creativity is as keen as ever. In the era of Spotify, where listening to a record is not the investment it used to be this E.P is a good jumping on point for uninitiated Nine Inch Nailers. Although you may want to have something to hand to cheer you up afterwards…maybe a nice tangle-twister or a picture of a kitten.