Sometimes you just want your favourite band to dish out some comfort food for you to devour like a snivelling peasant. Nine Inch Nails’ new song Less Than is their catchiest song since the safe and bouncy pop of The Hand That Feeds off the 2004 album With Teeth.
It’s a surprising turn from Trent Reznor and his production parther Atticus Rose, who’s now been fully installed in NIN. Over the last decade or so, Reznor has taken many left turns with Nine Inch Nails and as a composer, namely dark ambient soundtracks (Ghosts I-IV, The Social Network) and dystopian concept albums (Year Zero). Hesitation Marks from 2013 hit an industrial pop bullseye, especially on album (and live) opener Copy of A.
But it wasn’t until the Not the Actual Events EP last December that Reznor started to feed a few crumbs to NIN devotees still trapped in their 90s Downward Spiral/ Fragile prism – notably that piano motif on The idea of You, and its March of the Pigs machine drums, and the piston-powered electro-punk of Branches/Bones.
Less Than, though, sounds like an immediate encore song, and like The Hand That Feeds it sounds like a slightly cynical live banger, like a techno producer going straight for a feral 3am weapon.
The fuse is lit early on with a waspy arpeggiated cold wave synth line and carefully layered digital distortion that’s only ever building up to one spot – the big processed guitar chorus coming in after two verses on the exact bar it should. “So what are you waiting for? You got what you asked for,” Trent sings in full-on crumpled face and bicep-flexing mode.
You know how the rest pans out – added rusty metallic effects, a middle eight with a strangled solo, finishing on another chorus and a trademark full-stop nano-second ending – at three-and-a-half minutes exactly.
It may be Trent hammering Nine Inch Nails parts together on a flat-pack industrial pop production line, but I’m in.