Something I Can Never Have // Nine Inch Nails

You make this all go away
You make this all go away
I'm down to just one thing
And I'm starting to scare myself
You make this all go away
You make this all go away
I just want something
I just want something I can never have

Warning: The following video shows images of self-harm and suicidal ideation. I have chosen to share it because suicide is a real problem in the world and many people you’d never expect suffer from severe bouts of the disease. These images include the kinds of thoughts and feelings people who feel suicidal or are prone to self-harm experience on a daily, if not constant, basis. DO NOT WATCH this video if you find such images disturbing. If you are feeling suicidal yourself and need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255.

I don’t believe the above video is officially approved, but I was taken by the intensity of the images on screen while I was hunting for a video for the song. They are not nice. They are not kind. They are more than spot on.

I know.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’ve been in a NiN mood when it comes to music. While I enjoyed the music when this album first came out, I didn’t think much about what Trent Reznor sang — I liked that the songs seemed to be listenable versions of a few experimental bands I enjoyed at the time. Not that the more experimental music wasn’t listenable in its own way, but NiN brought the sounds of bands like Nitzer Ebb, Foetus, Death in June, Skinny Puppy, and the Ministry to a new audience by emulating those sounds, but filing off the sharper edges to make the songs a bit more palatable to the public than those bands ever managed.

Listening now, Reznor was is a dark place when he wrote this album when you dig beyond the surface. So dark, it surprises me that I didn’t glom onto the lyrics when I first heard them. I love dark lyrics, always have — and while I saw some of the darkness at the time, I really didn’t comprehend just how dark it was.

I will probably change my mood in the next few days, but this song resonates with me in a way it hadn’t before, especially as I dug into the messages contained within. And now I realize why Reznor had metal ribbons twisted into his hair that seemed to cut him with every thrash of his head as he sang, swinging over the audience on a big black chain, daring someone to pull him down and hurt him. He yelled at the bouncers to leave the audience fucking alone: they just want to feel something, you fuckers before he tossed one of the keyboards across the stage like a kid upsetting a gaming table. I thought it might be a very good bit of theater on his part at the time, but I think now that this acting out was because he didn’t want to feel what he was feeling. [Aside: in an interview about his time with David Bowie, he recalled the advice that Bowie gave him. Bowie told him that he understood where he was at, but this was not a path that would end well. Reznor took the message to heart.]

I know I would have listened if Bowie had taken me under his wing. Sometimes I wish someone I admired had done just that.

4 thoughts on “Something I Can Never Have // Nine Inch Nails”

    1. I liked that album as well, but I have fond memories of seeing the Pretty Hate Machine concert for free. NiN was still relatively unknown when I went saw them for that gig, so the concert was relatively intimate and highly charged with raw energy. When I saw NiN in support of DS, Trent was in the middle of his temper-tantrum phase and it was in an arena setting. That gig was more about smashing stuff on stage and I have less favorable associations with Downward Spiral as a result. But, still, a good album.


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