(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

I’m a big fan of Trent Reznor. I’m a big fan of Nine Inch Nails. So a Trent Reznor birthday bash-over-the-head of some of my fave songs.

I’d love to claim OG NIN status, but I can’t. I might have seen the music video for “Head Like a Hole” on MTV back in 1990, but if I did, it didn’t make a big enough impact on me to remember. My true introduction to Trent Reznor was 1992’s Broken EP.

Fall of ’92. I was starting my sophomore year at Wakefield High. The year prior, I was–like every other Gen Xer–fully immersed in the Seattle grunge scene. The ripple effect brought a bevy of bands and rock genres into my orbit. Like industrial.

Trent Reznor Birthday: Angry Music

Industrial music can best be described as a fusion of hard rock and electronic music. Like punk, but with programming. Like metal, but with less silliness and more synthesizers. Loud, angry music. In other words, the perfect soundtrack for hormonal 15-yr-olds.

I saw the video for “Wish” (which I’ll share below) on MTV. It scared the hell out of me. And it awakened a part of me I didn’t know was asleep. Off to Strawberries Records on Rt. 1 in Saugus to grab Broken on cassette. It’s all I remember listening to that fall.

Trent Reznor Birthday: Angry Man

Trent was pissed off, misunderstood, and horny. I could relate. And he was channeling all of that energy into some of the most uniquely cathartic music I’d ever heard. By the time The Downward Spiral dropped in ’94, I was a NIN fan and a Reznor acolyte.

Even has NIN’s sound evolved and Trent evolved as a musician, songwriter, and composer, I found him relatable. Because no matter what he’s doing, he’s putting his whole self into it. Happy Trent Reznor birthday. Here are some NIN songs that still kill me today.

  • "Wish"

    Not starting at the beginning, but starting at my beginning. I’m 15 years old, I’ve never heard or seen anything from an industrial act, and this Mad Max shit pops up on MTV. Mind blown? No, mind exploded.

  • "Something I Can Never Have"

    Of course I went back to Pretty Hate Machine, and of course I fell in love with it. This song will always be a standout because, for a time in high school, I played in a rock band called Big Orange. The keyboard player insisted on us covering this song, even though it was so far outside of what we were doing. I respected him for that.

  • "Big Man With a Gun"

    Story time! I was studying at Berklee in the summer of ’94. The Downward Spiral was wedged in my Walkman all summer long. I was sitting outside class one morning and a classmate from the Midwest–blonde, wide-eyed, innocent–asked what I was listening to. I handed her the headphones. This song happened to be on. The look on her face of pure horror and disgust still haunts me to this day. I’m so sorry.

  • "Burn"

    Natural Born Killers was a bad movie. But the soundtrack was good. I swear Trent samples the missile-shooting sound effect from the NES game “Metroid” in this one. I’m too lazy to look it up to confirm.

  • "The Perfect Drug"

    “TWO soundtrack tracks? That’s a third of your total list!” Yes, it is. And given Trent’s foray into film scoring, it’s no surprise that, when he’d compose a Nine Inch Nails song for a movie soundtrack, it was always memorable. NIN and David Lynch? This was ’90s heaven for me.

  • "Only"

    Thankfully, we played this one on WBCN. Nine Inch Nails weren’t as big of an act in the 2000s as they were in the ’90s, but Trent was still making amazing music under the NIN umbrella. Disco industrial? Sign me up!

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