NIN Oeuvre Blog: Last

Editor’s Note: This entry originally appeared on the blog Ten Thousand Lies on June 1, 2007.

“Last,” the third song on the Broken EP, was my first “favorite” NIN song. I can’t remember what order I bought the albums in, but I want to say that I had a copy of TDS first, and then PHM, and then, finally, Broken. Whatever the case, it wasn’t until I got heavily into Broken that one song emerged from the fray as a “favorite”. Before then, every song was on equal footing with me. But “Last” changed all that.

Maybe it’s the lyrics that did it for me. To this day, the images that Trent paints in “Last” are some of the ones that stick out most strongly in my mind. “Fresh blood through tired skin,” conjures an image of sickly, paper-thin flesh in my mind, and of the strange and somewhat grotesque sight of a vein pumping beneath it. “My lips may promise, but my heart is a whore.” Well, that line comes up in my brain so often that I long ago decided, if ever I was to do a follow-up to what was arguably my most successful song under the moniker of Pop Bubblegum Trash, a ditty entitled “Little Fascist Panties” (after a Tori Amos lyric, yes), then it would be called “My Lips May Promise,” or else, “My Heart Is A Whore.”

And, of course, the name of this site comes from “Last,” too. “Look through these tired eyes. You’ll see ten thousand lies.”

I was listening to a Pandora Podcast on song lyrics just last night, on the way home from work, and they got into a discussion about the power of repetition in popular music. They made the point that, while repetition doesn’t really work in poetry, it can do wonders for a song. I believe the song they used to illustrate the point was something by the Kinks, but I think there are quite a few NIN songs that could be given as examples, too. And “Last” is certainly one of them.

Consider the power of the word “come” in this song, the repeated invitation it offers. The music of Nine Inch Nails is nothing if not participatory. Trent invites the audience to “step right up,” in “March of the Pigs,” and here, in “Last,” he pleads with us to “come, come, come on.” And if we are at all hesitant, the driving guitar line is right there to give us a firm nudge.

Every song on Broken is amazing in my mind, from the opening crunches of “Pinion” to the hidden gems “Suck” and “Physical”. But the anger that’s oozing out of every corner of this EP is most palpable on “Last”. The Woodstock ‘94 version of “Happiness in Slavery” won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1996 but, in my opinion, “Last” is the most metal song Trent Reznor’s ever written.