Buttressing yesterday’s post of the Swans masterful ‘A Little God in My Hands’, I thought it’d be fun to highlight the bass work in another track of what I call ‘angry white guy funk’ genre. This time it’s the Nine Inch Nail release ‘The Big Come Down’ off their arty, ambitious The Fragile from 1999. Contextualizing the album in this way I feel changes much of Reznor’s usual sonic palette and closed inwards aggression, blossoming it towards hew horizons and new audiences. I chose ‘The Big Come Down’ because it’s the most outwardly funky bass track, but in reality the entire album approaches bass in roundabout this manner. The album, when first presented, was seen as disjointed and meandering, but I’d argue the construction cohesion not only makes for a highly focused articulation, but also a remarkably fun one (you can dance to most of the songs on The Fragile). For this listener, it’s NIN’s masterpiece.
The Fragile package (wonderfully designed by David Carson) would have extensive credits—it’s a densely layered record in construction—but the bass guitar is only credited to one player throughout: the multi-talented Trent Reznor. This was somewhat of a surprise to me, even being a NIN fan for almost 20 years now, as he’s used great bass players in the studio and live since the bands rise to fame. The fact that the most expressive bass in their canon is delivered not by some glitterati hired gun, but by Reznor himself, only adds that much more respect for him in my mind. Great stuff.