NIN Oeuvre Blog: Happiness in Slavery (Fixed)

Editor’s Note: This entry originally appeared on the blog Ten Thousand Lies on June 4, 2007.

I got into an argument with a friend once (online, I think, but I can’t find it) about what the absolute worst NIN release was. My answer was Further Down The Spiral, an answer I still stick by. Her answer, which shocked me, was Fixed. I got the impression, during our discussion, that Fixed was universally despised in some corners of the NIN fanbase, and I just couldn’t understand why. In my opinion, Fixed is the most complete of all of the Nine Inch Nails remix records. And the remix of “Happiness in Slavery” by Trent Reznor, Chris Vrenna, and P.K. that appears on the record is a big part of that.

Where else in the NIN catalog, except for fellow Fixed track “Screaming Slave”, do we get to experience a man’s tortured screams used as the focal point of a song? Where else in any band’s catalog, for that matter? Reznor, Vrenna, and P.K. create a fairly intense dance song with samples taken from a tune that would go on to win a Grammy for Best Metal Performance, and then insert into that track the repeated melody of a performance artist Bob Flanagan screaming, “Ahhhh, ahh-ahh. Oh-oh.” and that’s not considered one of the most amazing compositions in the catalog? How is this so?

What has always appealed to me about Nine Inch Nails is the way that Trent Reznor’s previous experience in New Wave bands like Option 30 comes out in nearly every track, regardless of how hard-edged it is. Where many of the bands who became popular with my classmates in the 1990s trace their roots back to the guitar-centric music of the 1960s and 70s, the music of Nine Inch Nails has, as it’s closest ancestor, the synthesizer-centric music of the 1980s. And I think there are some younger NIN fans who forget that, who enjoy the band in spite of that, instead of in appreciation of that. There are some younger fans who shun Pretty Hate Machine and it’s more danceable sensibility. And these are the same folks, I think, who might consider Fixed to be a sub-par record.

I think they’re missing out, but maybe that’s just me.