Friday, July 28th, 2017

Nine Inch Nails – Less Than

This song certainly wasn’t!


Ian Mathers: “Did it fix what was wrong with you? / Are you less than?” God, if only every artist I channeled my totally average teen angst through had aged with me so well… meaning, it’s still a little ridiculous (and still sounds like a swarm of particularly well organized and destructive spaceships), but at least Trent’s asking questions that aren’t the same ones 16-year-old me had already thought of. Anyway, clearly the whole song is just built to get us to the end bit where the spaceships start blowing up buildings and it builds so nicely to that bit, I’d call it a success.

Tim de Reuse: There are smatterings of modern sound design and modern subject matter here, certainly, but Reznor’s voice still has a high whine to it and he’s still using phrases like “Welcome oblivion” with sincere fuck-you gusto over grungy, distorted drum machine samples. It’s disorienting hearing something that simultaneously references the birth of the Trump administration and transports me back to sixth grade, but I don’t think my enjoyment of it can entirely be put down to nostalgia. The recent outpouring of unironic, angsty-warts-and-all love and support for the music of Linkin Park in the wake of Chester Bennington’s death was a reminder that the cheesy stuff I loved as a kid was genuinely cathartic and remains important in its own right; to my genuine surprise, the 2017 coat of paint suits it well.

Maxwell Cavaseno: You know, I hate political Reznor. When so many critics salivated at “Capital G” I learned first and foremost that if I was going to enjoy music, I had to learn to simply live long enough for him to outlast the political climate and hear him make music that was concerned with something better. Tragically when we got out of that mess, he decided to take a break and additionally return trying to make music possibly reflecting the need for serenity in becoming a parent. Of course, when the sky goes red, Political Trent and his distortion pedals rear their malicious head… But I have to say, making a song that’s nihilistically scowling at a world that deliberately put itself into hell, while having the sort of neo-nostalgia 8-bit synthwave music that the redditors who’ll gladly #Actually us into a black hole are cranking up, is a pretty sadistic little touch.

Cassy Gress: Welp, I tweeted a couple of weeks ago that NIN’s last good album will probably be Year Zero, on the basis that “The Hand That Feeds,” “Survivalism,” “Discipline,” and “Came Back Haunted” all sound like variations on the same song to me (but Year Zero had better cohesion and better non-single songs). “Less Than” is another variation on that song, but from an alternate universe where it appeared on The Fragile, and also it was on a rocket. I don’t know how else to explain the sudden return of expansive heft and chest-ripped-open-ness.

Thomas Inskeep: Heavy synths, heavy drums, and Trent Reznor’s vocals: I don’t hear this as “synthwave,” though some may. I simply hear this as a great NIN single, their best in over a decade, sitting up alongside 2005’s “Only” and “The Hand That Feeds.” “Less Than” whomps and at the same time creeps up on you, cutting you off at the knees before you realize it’s even behind you.

Anaïs Escobar Mathers: I would like to have words with David Lynch because on a recent episode of Twin Peaks, he made me think to myself: “Do I like Nine Inch Nails?” No worries though because “Less Than” brought me back to earth and reminded me that nope, it’s just Trent doing Trent, aggro synth usage plus cynicism, business as usual, and I’m good without, thanks. A classic example of fine but not for me.

Alfred Soto: Trent Reznor’s penchant for the scabrous putdown distinguishes him from other poseur revivalists, and “Less Than” is better titled “More Than” anyway, thanks to the crispness with which the auteur keeps stacking riff atop riff. 

Will Adams: Nine Inch Nails had fallen off my radar after The Slip; perhaps it was just a function of my teenage self embracing pop music more and moving further away from angsty cynicism. “Less Than” tears through my indifference by reminding me why I liked them so much: it has the propulsion of With Teeth, the relentless distortion that screams through the mix, and Trent Reznor powering through with conviction. In 2017, Reznor need not do much to paint a dystopian landscape; some light shading is all I need to feel his anger.

Reader average: [8.25] (4 votes)

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2 Responses to “Nine Inch Nails – Less Than”

  1. Will Chester Bennington get an obit post?

  2. We were talking about it