The Five Most Surprising Nine Inch Nails Tracks

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With this Saturday's Nine Inch Nails/Soundgarden supershow at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, now with added opener The Dillinger Escape Plan to make it even sweeter, we're digging deep into our collections of their records, stripping them for all their best parts.

Nine Inch Nails is the kind of band who are fairly dependable. Trent Reznor writes very much in the mode of either angry or depressed. He's strayed from the formula plenty, but rarely so far as to shock anyone. However, these five really stood out as the most shocking turns Reznor has taken in his 25-year career.

5. "Purest Feeling" One of the first and weirdest Nine Inch Nails tracks ever recorded, "Purest Feeling" has never surfaced outside of the band's original demo. There's a good reason for that; it's not indicative at all of the eventual direction the band would take, but rather of Reznor's origins in '80s synth-pop and New Wave bands.

Still, for those of us dedicated enough to put up with the same-titled demo's very shoddy sound quality, "Purest Feeling" is a fun, bouncy track that could have easily been recorded by Reznor's idols, Depeche Mode.

4. "Ruiner" When you're listening to it for the first time, "Ruiner" probably sounds like a fairly typical Nine Inch Nails track, at least for a little while. Certainly you wouldn't be shocked to find out who recorded the song.

The surprising part about this one comes right smack-dab in the middle. It slows down, it gets really quiet, and then...there's a guitar solo. To date, "Ruiner" is one of the only tracks in the entire NIN discography to feature a real-deal, classic-rock guitar solo.

3. "The Hand That Feeds" Prior to 2005, many might have thought Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails were done. He had descended deep into his drug habit following The Fragile, the band had gone into a period of inactivity, and the band's music had become more and more dense and incomprehensible to casual fans. Though The Fragile is highly regarded now, many considered it an overwrought failure upon its release.

Then Reznor cleaned up, got healthy and buff as hell, and recorded a new record. "The Hand That Feeds" announced the band's return after six years, and it was a shock. After all the increasingly experimental, ambient music Reznor had recorded for The Fragile, the opening disco beat that announced his return was something fans never saw coming. Some were happy, some weren't, but it became a massive hit all the same.

List continues on the next page.

2. "1 Ghosts I" Putting this track on the list is only really standing in for the Ghosts I-IV record as a whole. In 2008, Nine Inch Nails had released Year Zero only a year earlier and no one expected Trent to deliver a new album so fast afterwards. It just wasn't the pace we were used to him working at.

But Ghosts I-IV was not just shocking because of the speed with which it was released. It was dropped with no buildup in the slightest, with a pay-what-you-want system, made all the more shocking by the lengthy and elaborate guerrilla marketing campaign which built up to Year Zero.

And musically? Well, it wasn't quite outside NIN's range, but it was entirely instrumental, something Trent had never done before. This album was one of the most surprising moves made by any major artist of all time.

1. "Everything" Okay, for those loyal readers, you already know I hated this track so much when it came out that I wrote a whole article explaining why it sucked. That being said, it was definitely shocking to hear Trent singing over something this happy and catchy. It even sticks out like a sore thumb on its host album, Hesitation Marks.

"Everything" may not ever be my favorite Nine Inch Nails song. Actually, I still pretty much hate it, even if it didn't turn out to be a harbinger of Hesitation Marks' total suckage. But give it to Trent, it sure was a surprising twist on the Nine Inch Nails sound.

Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden perform Saturday, August 16 at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands. Gates open at 7 p.m.


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