ALBUM OF THE WEEK
During the time that Pretty Hate Machine was becoming an underground sensation, Trent Reznor became embroiled in legal difficulties with his label that prevented the release of any new Nine Inch Nails material.
But the three-year wait actually helped — most of NIN’s fans were relatively recent converts, and they eagerly snapped up 1992’s Broken, which afforded the already angst-ridden Reznor the opportunity to vent his ample frustration over the imbroglio.
Where Pretty Hate Machine had a few moments of reflection and sardonic humor, Broken is a concentrated blast of caustic, naked rage. Given how draining it is, a full-length album in its style would unquestionably have been wearisome, even self-parodic.
So, Broken is the rare EP that’s conceptually focused and complete unto itself. Production-wise, it’s also a step up from Pretty Hate Machine, and a showcase for Reznor’s flowering studio acumen. While Pretty Hate Machine was primarily electronic, Broken is loaded with heavy, jagged guitars, processed through a veritable meat grinder of effects into a massive wall of distortion.
Each song one-ups the viciousness of its predecessor; even the two relatively subdued instrumental interludes are full of abrasive textures. There are two hidden bonus cuts at the end of the CD (early pressings had them on a separate disc); they’re neither as produced nor as intense, and thus separated conceptually as well as physically. The cover of Adam Ant’s “(You’re So) Physical” was something of a revelation — not just demonstrating Reznor’s fondness for new wave, but serving as a touchstone for his self-conscious, glammed-up sense of style. That — and his skills as a producer and arranger — would reach their fullest realization on The Downward Spiral, but Broken’s tight focus and frothing intensity make it a major work in its own right. (review by Steve Huey)
Aggressive Angry Cathartic Confrontational Cynical/Sarcastic Harsh Hostile Intense Nihilistic Theatrical