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 411mania » Music » Columns

The Savage Animal 3.05.14: The Album Covers of Nine Inch Nails
Posted by Mikey MiGo on 03.05.2014

"Another Elaborate Look At The Oscars": The Oscars have come and gone. It was the 86th annual Academy Awards, but for some reason we call them the "Oscars" because that's the name of the trophy that's given out. We don't call the MTV Awards "Moonmen" because that's stupid. We don't call the Grammys anything else because it IS the Grammy Awards. Otherwise, it'd be stupid. Calling the Academy Awards "The Oscars" is stupid. We all just accept it though and rationalize it. I say this because most people don't care enough to care enough. I can guarantee you that there are many people out there who think "The Oscars" and "Academy Awards" are two separate entities. Yeah, that sick feeling in your stomach is called "the truth".

Ellen Degeneres was a really good host. She has proven to be a natural on screen and it's a wonder why she's not hosting this every year. Just save everyone the hassle and give it to her for a three year chunk. She was funny, engaging, and kept the show moving along. People complained a little about her monologue. My only gripe was that she was too nice. Regardless, she proved to be pretty entertaining and did her role very well.

The music performances were good. Pharrell Williams has been a huge part of popular music over the past ten or so years. It's great that he's FINALLY getting to own the spotlight and take in all the praise he should have been getting all a long. NERD's first album holds up as much as rock or rap album in the past decade. All of this is just the icing for me. U2 was good. They're one of my favorite bands so I'm a little bias. I can admit to cringing at Bono's vocals when ti started, but as it went on it found it's place. I could have lived without Bono getting creepy at the front of the stage. Karen O's spot was perfect, casual, and sweet. I could have lived without Pink's ‘Wizard of Oz' segment. It's an iconic song so it's hard to nail. I like Pink, but the song didn't feel as big as it should have been.

The awards went about as expected for me. I make a big deal about seeing every Oscar nominated movie that I can before the show. It turns out the only movie I didn't see would win a lot. "12 Years a Slave" will be viewed soon, but I'm happy to see everyone from Dallas Buyers Club getting little gold men. Leto's 20 minute acceptance ramble, McConaughey's cool speech, Spike Jonze confusing people with imagination, "Gravity" winning stuff, and all of that stuff.

It was a good show. I normally half-watch the show. I'll have it on in the background or flip back and forth to it while other things are on. This year was different. I actually sat down to watch it and I'm not upset I did. It was a pretty good year in movies and I was happy to celebrate that in my own way. I'd love to see more variety and less typical films included in the show, but at least it was entertaining.

The Album Covers of Nine Inch Nails
Pretty (hate machine) Pictures!

Nine Inch Nails is "my favorite band of all time". I know it's mostly Trent Reznor doing his own thing and then hooking up with random session musicians and hired guns to fill out the spots when needed. It's still a band entity though in terms of classifying it. I guess you could say "Trent Reznor is my favorite musician" or "NIN is my favorite music".

Over the years my fandom has been a roller coaster of being a super fan boy that paid for fan club membership fees just to have a chance to meet Trent Reznor at one of the "Spiral Meet and Greets"(Out of the ten or so NIN shows I've been to I have never met the man, go figure) to being a pretty damn cynical "hater" who wonders what my once-hero's intentions and motivations were. It's really easy to judge someone else's work, but it's hard to look past your own hang ups and ideals in the process. I will always "love" NIN's music. There are songs that I connect to more than people I've known my entire life. It's just part of me and who I am. That doesn't mean I can't change and grow. Sometimes people grow apart and I guess this whole situation proves that sometimes people and connections of all kinds can grow apart.

I still pride myself on my love for Nine Inch Nails, but it's not the same. I don't think it ever will be. As I grow older the angsty teenager inside me is lightening up. I don't need to cry myself to sleep to the tune of "Something I Can Never Have". I don't need to put myself into debt to go to Lollpalooza for an abbreviated set.

For the next few weeks I'm going to focus on Nine Inch Nails. In the upcoming weeks I'm going to provide a "Top 20 NIN Music Videos" in a chunky two-parter and then really dig deep into my fandom and see what happens. Today I'm going to look at the album art of the eight studio LPs.

Maybe at the end of this I'll find my way back into the NIN mindset or maybe I'll just "wave, wave, wave goodbye" as my fandom becomes "Nothing".

Without further ado, let's look at the album covers of Nine Inch Nails…

Pretty Hate Machine

(1989) -
This cover was always an interesting one. For such a "dark and evil" band, the brighter blues and pinks of this cover always felt like good contrast. The coloring is just one aspect of this cover. Trent Reznor revealed that the cover was the blades of some sort of turbine stretched vertically so it'd look like a rib cage. The typography is simple and the lay out is just sort of "there". It works. It's not the best cover of the collection, but it's got to start somewhere.
Rating: 6.55

The Downward Spiral

(1994) -
Russell Mills did a lot of the NIN artwork in the 90s, but this has to be the most famous of his work at this point. It's the cover of NIN's most successful and often thought of as the best album of the discography. It's a mixed media project. It's weird to think of something we've experienced as a flat image as being textured and layered but this cover is made of plaster, acrylics, oils, rusted metals, insects, moths, blood (mine), wax, varnishes, and surgical bandaging on a wooden panel. All fine ingredients for anyone plotting a downward spiral of their own.
Rating: 8.95

The Fragile

(1999) -
This is the cover I connect with most because it's the album I listened to most and read the liner notes of the CD most. Yeah, remember when that awesomeness was a thing? The artwork of this era was awesome. It was a blurred and skewed look at blues, greens, and random lively beauty. Lots of close ups of flowers, feathers, and calming shades. The whole design was because of a developing error where the film got ruined. They decided to go with one of the errors and NIN-history was made.
Rating: 8.5

With Teeth

(2005) -
I've always liked this cover. This album doesn't get enough acclaim for the great stuff on it. It's just a solid album. This was also the tour I went to for eight or nine shows so I'm a little bias. The cover is cool regardless. It's got the same "vibe" as older NIN stuff, but it's brighter and starts to have a more "digital disaster" type of motif. I really like the subtle bleeds and the distant blues and greens. Designer Rob Sheridan gives us layers upon layers in this awesome piece. It's easy to just look at the get lost in for a while.
Rating: 8.35

Year Zero

(2007) -
I love this cover. It doesn't seem like much, but it represents a bigger picture. The release of Year Zero had a whole world behind it that involved clues, leaks, and a whole alternate reality that we'd be gives bits and pieces of as we got closer to the release. It was one of the coolest interactive experiences I've ever had with a band and on the low it's one of the greatest music marketing experiences I've ever heard of. It was just magic. The cover is the "hand of god" coming down from the sky. The perspective is from the inside of a car. It's blurry, skewed, and in an eerie blue tint. It's very "X-Files-ish" and looks cool on its own merit, but the backstory is what makes it so cool.
Rating: 8.75

Ghosts I-IV

(2008) -
There isn't much going on in this cover, but there doesn't have to be. The cover was originally released as a mere JPG file that came along with the free download of the album. It's in the same ballpark of the imagery being used at this time, but it's nothing too specific. It's a curved line dividing shades of grey. There is a lot of depth in its simplicity. It's not going to blow the world away, but it's perfect for a massive instrumental release like this.
Rating: 7.0

The Slip

(2008) -
It's not that I hate this cover, but I just feel unaffected by it. I've been a fan long enough to recognize that's Trent Reznor's blurred profile. The year is cut off via red strip with digital damage. The arm that's on Trent's arm is apparently Alessandro Cortini, despite him not performing on the album. Visually this cover is okay. It's artistic and fits the theme, but it's one of the least engaging images of the NIN history.
Rating: 6.25

Hesitation Marks

(2013) -
We finish this journey through the LP collection of Nine Inch Nails with a pretty recent release. While the album isn't getting nearly as much love as it should, the cover is what's really under appreciated. For the first time in a long time they have Russell Mills return to the cover. He produced five different versions of the album for each of the different release editions. Trent was originally seeking one design, but couldn't choose between the bunch. These aren't just digital designs that someone did on a computer. These are amazing pieces of art. The "main cover" uses plaster, dirt, oils, etching varnish, burning, rusted linen, BLOOD, spent matches, and wood as others include things like copper wire, velvet and microscope slides among other ingredients for these mixed media projects. Yeah, I said BLOOD! Awesome.
Rating: 9.5

What is YOUR favorite Nine Inch Nails album cover?

"Mike Goodpaster's Unpaid Programming"

" Enough Said"

This was one of the bigger "independent darling" movies of the year. It doesn't even feel "independent" being it stars very well-known people and surely had a budget more than a couple million. If anything it's independent in "tone" and "style". Whatever. A movie is a movie and this is a damn good one. Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as a middle aged woman who is sorta just adrift in life. Her daughter is leaving home and she's alone and is a chiropractor for a living. She goes to a party and gains a client and meets a man. The man is a bigger guy who is also alone and looking. They go out and gradually start to really appreciate each other. Things are all good and well until she finds out that her new client is problematic to the blossoming relationship. It's a good story with a lot of heart. It's not a big popcorn movie or lots of laughs, but it'll make you smile. What more can you ask for? Then there's one BIG aspect to his movie that I'm tip-toeing over. This is one of James Gandolfini's best performances. I'm a fan of James Gandolfini. I think he was a really good actor who seemed like a great guy. He was amazing as Tony Soprano, a role that only a giant presence of a man could have pulled off. He was a big guy, but you could tell behind his squashing demeanor was a really kind heart. In interviews he came off as a man who was approachable and down to earth. I don't think he got nearly enough chances to show off his more human side. He is always going to be "Tony Soprano", but movies like this show glimpses of what this man could have delivered. As the love-lost man who falls for a chiropractor, he opens himself up to the ultimate of vulnerabilities. He just lives and reacts. He shows an emotive range that makes you want to just bear hug the guy. For someone who established his fame as a vindictive mobster, this is pretty cool. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is great in this, but see it for Gandolfini. See it for both. See it for the story. Just see it. A-

"Worst Case Scenario" is a new take on the concept of "fantasy booking". For years professional wrestling fans would spend endless hours of thinking up the coolest things that could happen. Why waste the energy? This only leads to high expectations. "Worst Case Scenario" flips that. Instead of looking through rose colored glasses, let's take a bi-weekly look at the worst possible scenarios in professional wrestling. I'm not going to be malicious or anything too mean, but I will not refrain from letting my brain come up with the worst possible shit I can. Sadly, it seems the writers and producers of mainstream TV wrestling and the mainstream iPPV level indies are doing the same thing but charging us for it. And now…

"TNA Starts a Network Too!"

The WWE now has a network. For better or worse, they have made history with this big leap forward. Some say it's an innovation, but other entertainment services and brands have done this already. It's cool and hell and I look forward to seeing what direction this could take things. I know I'm not alone. The numbers speak for themselves. This is a big deal.

TNA has to do SOMETHING, right?

They will soon have to reveal they too are starting their own NETWORK!

They can hype up innovation and groundbreaking content.

All the new shows! An interview show! A Top 10 Show! A Q&A show! Then more and more and more! It never ends.

It's easy for TNA to pull this feat off because you see this isn't a video on demand network. It's not even a radio network. The TNA "Network" will be a podcast network.

TNA runs things a certain way. In this certain situation, it's easy to imagine they would pretape the podcasts months ahead of time. They would interview and feature talent that are not under contract. Instead of establishing new podcast talent, they'll hire on old radio DJs and former WWE enhancement talent to fill out the host roster.

The problem with the pretaped podcasts is that somehow spoilers will get out, people will read the spoilers and then have no desire at all to tune in. They will have interviews with talent who have left the company. It will not have long term coherent storylines. Every night will feature a Dixie Carter in "letting-her-hair-done-mode" letting loose with karaoke of her favorite country and pop songs. For some reason she insists on doing "Feels Like a Woman" by Shania Twain every single night.

This will be the best network of all time. The WWE's on demand PPVs, classics, and original content will not be able to compete with this entertainment juggernaut.

All hail, TNA! All hail, TNA!

Best network EVER.

"Walk of Shame"

This movie is going to be fun. I've been a big fan of Elizabeth Banks for a while now. I think she's one of the most endearing actresses out there. When she pops up in a movie or a television show it's almost an instant smile. She just seems like such a pleasant person. I'm happy to see her get a starring role here. She plays a reporter who is on the verge of getting her dream job. She has a big job interview, but the catch is that she's stranded in downtown LA with no phone, car, ID, or money. She has eight hours to get to the job interview. Yeah, the plot sounds a lot like the movie The Warriors, but I doubt we'll get any baseball Furies in this one. The ensemble cast they put around Banks is top notch. The cast is made up of James Mardsen, Gillian Jacobs, Ethan Suplee, Sarah Wright, Kevin Nealon, Bill Burr, Willie Garson, Oliver Hudson, Tig Notaro, and a hand full of other awesome people. I'm not expecting the best comedy of the year or anything, but I'm sure this will be a good and entertaining ride. I hope so at least.

That's all for now! I'm currently extremely busy. I'll ramble and share what's going on in the weeks to come. In the meantime, I hope this NIN column and the next three don't come off too indulgent. I mean, they ARE, but I hope people can relate to them and find something of distracting or introspective value. Next week I'm going to share the top 20 through 11 of my Top 20 NIN Music Videos of ALL TIME. Yes, of ALL TIME. That includes the 80s. Until next time… Have a Great Week!


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