(AHK-toong BAY-bi) Covered, by Various Artists

04-ahktoongbaybicovered

Track 1 only

Released October 26, 2011

6 min, 28 sec

Here’s a bit of a spoiler: I absolutely love Nine Inch Nails.

Another spoiler: 72 albums in my library are either by Nine Inch Nails or a closely related side project. So, this blog’s going to have a lot of Nine Inch Nails content, and it’s going to hit pretty soon. (Another spoiler, I suppose.)

I suppose it’s fitting, then, that the first post of the Nine Inch Nails hurricane is a U2 cover from an album that I was only interested in for said Nine Inch Nails song. I don’t even have the other eleven tracks.

(AHK-toong BAY-bi) Covered is a tribute album, featuring covers of each track from U2’s landmark album Achtung Baby, in the proper album sequence. As such, NIN’s cover of Zoo Station leads off the album, which features artists such as Patti Smith, Garbage, Depeche Mode, Snow Patrol, and…U2. (Track two is a remix as opposed to a cover.)

I’ve never liked U2 all that much. The only album I have is Songs of Innocence, the infamous “it’s in my library and I can’t get it out!” album released in tandem with Apple and iTunes. We’ll talk about that more in that album’s article, probably over a year from now.

So, I acquired this album solely for the NIN track, and discarded the rest immediately.

When “Zoo Station” was released, Nine Inch Nails had not released an album in over three years, the last one being 2008’s The Slip. In the time between that album and this track, Trent Reznor mainly busied himself with three projects – the band How to Destroy Angels and their debut EP, the score for The Social Network, and the score for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. In addition, Reznor penned an instrumental track to serve as the main theme for Tetsuo: The Bullet Man, under the Nine Inch Nails name. That song and “Zoo Station” were all we got on the NIN front up until 2013’s Hesitation Marks. Understandably, NIN fans ate this shit up when it came out.

Was it worth it?

Well, it’s a cover of a song I don’t care about, originally by a band that I don’t care about, on a compilation album that, surprise, I don’t care about. The song itself is interesting; rather than being a straight cover (of a song that many have noted is the closest U2 would ever get to writing a NIN song), Reznor instead takes a more electronic approach, creating layers and layers of synthesizers to approximate the song’s original melody, while discarded the vocal distortion of the original, in favor of clear, crisp vocal lines, utilizing most of Reznor’s lower register. The NIN cover is nearly two minutes longer than the original, most of that time being taken up by a lengthy outro that layers in even more synths, the most prominent one making a number of unsettling buzzing, static-y noises.

It’s a good song, basically, but a bit of a let-down, particularly compared to “Theme for Tetsuo: The Bullet Man.”

Even though I’m pushing 500 words here, there’s really not that much for me to say about the track. I like it because it’s a convincingly NIN-esque song, but I don’t spin it every day, and I don’t have any particular attachment to it. Like “Tetsuo,” “Zoo Station” is a stopgap in Nine Inch Nails history, a little blip on the radar to tide fans over while Reznor worked on other projects during his four-year hiatus from proper NIN.

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