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Nine Inch Nails’ “The Idea Of You” captured 2016’s creeping dread

Nine Inch Nails (Photo: John Crawford)

In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re picking songs from 2016 that we discovered too late in the year to include on our year-end ballots.

Nine Inch Nails, “The Idea Of You” (2016)

Nine Inch Nails unleashed its new EP, Not The Actual Events, when most music industry people were long gone on a holiday break. The defiant release date was oddly appropriate, since the EP felt like a nihilistic boot-kick to the head. Trent Reznor and newly minted official NIN collaborator Atticus Ross sent off 2016 by translating the year’s ever-present dread into mangled electro-rock and hollowed-out post-punk.


The EP’s most bracing and effective track is “The Idea Of You.” Reznor spews the kind of industrial-rock bile he favored in NIN’s early days and adds to it knob-twisting synth madness and staticky effects. Jagged shards of piano rain down around the chaos, which is ably held together by concrete-drill drumming courtesy of Dave Grohl. “The Idea Of You” feels like it could slip right onto the end of another agonized NIN EP, 1992’s Broken, although its rage and despair come from a decidedly modern place.

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