Nine Inch Nails: "Only"


By Christopher Alexander | 9 January 2008

Trent Reznor creates music under two identities: Nine Inch Nails and Dumb Fuck. The Downward Spiral is a Nine Inch Nails album: an acerbic onslought of red-zone drum machines, cut up sinthesizers, and musique concrete passages that recalls (please don't laugh) the production techniques of The Bomb Squad more than any Wax Trax! twelve inch. It makes the juvenile suicide fantasy of the libretto convincing, even engaging. It's defensible, and worth defending.

"Only," however, comes via Dumb Fuck, the rogue behind most of Broken, "Down in It" and pretty much every other word that's ever graced an NIN track. This song's only saving grace is that it trades in the lite industrial disco of Pretty Hate Machine for lite DFA disco. It creates the impression that Reznor's been paying attention for the last five years, which is immediately dashed once he opens his mouth. "Only" is Dumb Fuck by numbers: rudimentary Korg synthesizers, staccatto arpeggiators, a wash of guitars that emphasize the major third over a minor key, and, of course, clumsy emoting that involves lyrics about scabs, hilariously awful rapping, and a gratuitous f-word in the chorus. I've no reason to doubt his sincerity, self-absorbed as it may be, but it's hard to imagine this being released for anything other than shallow, self-pecuniary reasons. This is music to shop at Hot Topic to.