Review Of Broken

By Al Crawford for AWRC.com on July 28, 1992

Nine Inch Nails Broken Island/TVT/Interscope IMCD 8004 [UK]

Total Running Time: 37 min 45 sec

1.Pinion - 1:02 2.Wish - 3:46
3.Last - 4:44
4.Help Me I Am In Hell - 1:56
5.Happiness In Slavery - 5:21
6.Gave Up - 4:08
7.Physical - 5:29
8.Suck - 5:06

_Broken_ - I'm not sure if the title refers to the equipment this new EP from NIN was recorded on (it sounds in places as though it was recorded at the bottom of a swamp, albeit a very loud swamp) or the fact that it makes you think your CD player is broken when you play it and your CD informs you that contrary to all indications on the packaging, the CD has 99 tracks.

It might be very clever to have the two bonus tracks (which aren't listed anywhere on the packaging) as tracks 98 and 99, but having to skip through 91 "blank" tracks, each of which consists of 3 seconds of silence, is annoying in the extreme, especially on a Discman where you have to hit the forward button once for each track. They also exaggerate the amount of music on the disc considerably - the total time *appears* to be almost 38 minutes, but six minutes of that is blank space and the disc's true length is just under 32 minutes.

Right, what else can I complain about? Oh yeah, it's in a Digi-pak. Quite well designed, admittedly, with fold out panels and nice artwork, but I'd rather have had even a slimline jewel box to this. If this had been at full album price, rather than the "expensive single" price of #5.99, I wouldn't have even bought it. Digi-paks are OK for singles, but I demand better packaging for albums. As it is, even given the good care I give my collection, it probably won't be too long before _Broken_ is, if not actually _Broken_, then at least _Badly Scuffed_.

OK, I've complained about the dumb gimmicky tracking and the cruddy packaging, now how about the music?

Hmmm. I liked _Pretty Hate Machine_ without ever being too blown away by it, and I guess I'd say the same about this one. The synths have receded into the background and been largely replaced by guitars, the overall sound being much heavier than the majority of _PHM_, perhaps rather closer to recent Ministry. I don't know exactly what I could describe this one as sounding like though - _PHM_ was angsty pop with a "new industrial" sensibility, _Broken_ seems more like the same sound shifted "sideways", angsty thrash-pop with a "new industrial" sensibility perhaps? Meaning it's got lots of thrashy guitars, angst-ridden lyrics, metallic boings and clanks, but some of the tracks still retain something recognisable as a pop hook.

Trent Reznor still seems quite convinced the entire world exists only to make his life miserable but he's obviously getting a little pissed off with the whole situation, the whining having been supplemented with a great deal of screaming, much of it apparently reflecting the view that if the world is nasty and unpleasant, saying "Fuck" at it a lot will make things better. It's a shame though, as while Trent's angry scream comes over here much of the time as sadly cliched, at times on _PHM_ he did actually seem capable of emoting rather more convincingly and in a rather less one-dimensional manner ("Something I Can Never Have") than is demonstrated here. It's quite possible to demonstrate anger and resentment without screaming your head off but this seems to have escaped Trent this time round. Oh well.

There's no standout tracks quite as obvious as "Head Like A Hole" or "Down In It" here, but "Happiness In Slavery" is pretty good (reminiscent of "HLAH" in having a relatively restrained verse followed by a considerably louder chorus) and "Last" and "Gave Up" are also worth a listen.

Here in the UK we seem to have been quite lucky as far as the bonus track situation goes. Unlike some US copies, the two bonus tracks (bonuses - hah! Given that there seem to be almost no copies *without* bonus tracks calling them bonus tracks is little more than a display of false generosity on the part of the record company) are both on the disc itself rather than a separate bonus CD. Buyers of the UK 12" though, will have to make do with a separate bonus 7" containing the two tracks.

The first of the bonus tracks is "Physical", a competent but non-amazing Adam Ant cover, the second is a new version of the track "Suck", which was Trent's contribution to Pigface. I definitely prefer the original version, which was much more atmospheric and beside which this version is about as subtle as a brick to the cranium.

So. Was it worth the wait? Well, I was never exactly waiting with baited breath in the first place - the "legend" that grew up around _Pretty Hate Machine_ far exceeded its quality and the quality of a release has *nothing* to do with how long it took to appear. _Broken_ is competent, a decent listen if you can find it at an acceptable price, and there's two or three good tracks but overall it's not so much "brilliant" as "quite good in places."

Erland Rating: +1
Crawford Rating: Blue/Banana/Doberman

By Al Crawford

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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