Nine Inch Nails – “The Perfect Drug” Versions – Review

Nine Inch Nails

“The Perfect Drug” Versions (Nothing)
by Lex Marburger

Is it writer’s block, or is he just giving himself some breathing room? Nine Inch Nails has only done one song since The Downward Spiral and, though “The Perfect Drug” is a great tune, what else has he done lately? I dunno… Why don’t we give it to a bunch of remixers? Jack Dangers from Meat Beat Manifesto tries his hand, and beefs up the bass, bringing on a serious drums ‘n’ dub atmosphere, eschewing almost all vocals and melody from the song, except the song’s title. Even though that seems to be the style, one of the aspects that makes Reznor so popular is his sense of melody, both gentle and vicious, something sweet to lure you in, something sharp to make your palms sweat. That said, Dangers’ remix is good nonetheless, with high energy drums, layered and stacked, with heavy low end, dangerous outside sounds (an ominous “Annihilate” fills space), and Meat Beat style. Luke Vibert from Plug steps up next, segueing seamlessly from Dangers’ mix, using Reznor’s voice like a soft paintbrush, his whispers of “you are the perfect drug” slipping in and out of consciousness. Luke seems to understand Reznor’s style, including the guitar progressions of the slow section at the end of the original, “Without you… everything falls apart.” His remix, although just as fast-paced as Dangers’, has a dreamier quality, as if for Jack, the perfect drug is cocaine while for Luke, it’s opium. As the fractured beats fly by, we float along behind, supported on a soft keyboard line. The same easygoing feeling cannot be found in the Reznor/Hillebrandt/Pollack remix. To continue the analogy, this seems to be the PCP mix. Reznor sinks deep into his disturbing world of permanent tension, and pulls out shattered tweaks and treatments that propel listeners out of their skulls and into a nightmare universe. Reznor isn’t afraid to cut the drums back to a normal pace, he knows what kind of effect that will have, hearing kinetic-crazed beats for 15 minutes and then breaking it down, opening up rhythmic space, dropping us into a clearing, or a hurricane’s eye, the moderate sense of peace with a knowledge that it won’t last. And it doesn’t. He leaps for our throat with a final surge of sound, throwing affected piano and churning guitar though the air, and then cuts off, leaving us breathless, waiting for the next attack. The likes of which are unexpected. Jonah Sharp of Spacetime Continuum softens the teeth of the monster, turns it into an ambient melody, and lilts some beats on top of it. Jonah’s drug? A combination of extremely good pot and nitrous oxide. After the raging quality of the previous versions, Jonah’s remix is a soothing balm over frazzled nerves. A wonderful way to shut off the mind and relax. To tie things up,Alex Patterson and Andy Hughes, better known as the Orb, take their shot, and it’s clear that high quality Owsley is the drug presented here. Starting with child-demon voices, it quickly slips into a swing shuffle. Yes, I said a swing shuffle. That blends, eventually, into a skewed beat pattern, twittering electronics, and psychotic repetitions and reverb. The bass enters heavy and slow, a support foundation for sounds that only the Orb can crank out. And then – nothing. Amazing, no bonus track. I know, five songs don’t seem like much, but each remix averages seven minutes apiece. Thirty-five minutes of top notch electro? Sure, sign me up. Now if only Reznor would write something new. Hope he’s not tapped dry.