By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
A doomy sci-fi concept album laced with boom-shot beats and competing perspectives, April's Year Zero was exceedingly bleak and spare: an ideal starting point for mixing-board rats keen to project and cannibalize. Year Zero Remixedsorry, Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3Dinvites a new crop of outsiders to extreme-makeover each of the record's 16 scenes, and throws in a data disc so you can play studio overload at home, if you so desire. (Trent is currently battling with Interscope over his desire to aggregate fan remixes at remix.nin.com; "The man controls you," indeed.)
What's here already is frequently top-shelf, though, so bring your armchair A-game. Saul Williams upgrades furious instrumental intro "Hyperpower!" to "Gunshots by Computer," shout-rapping polemics over the bang-bang amp-snarl as though Zack de la Rocha's career depended on it: "This man and his army are praying in their fortresses/Making guns of steeples, insurgents of people/The messiah's an immigrant detained at the border, separated from his trinity/His wife and his daughter." Pirate Robot Midget shove "My Violent Heart" into the throbbing-noise red, turning this power-to-the-people empowerment anthem electro-raw radioactiveit's like being trapped in the synchronized bowels of a working refinery, pistons pulsing and levers jerking as Reznor dusts off his best 21st-century Karl Marx imitation. The Faint sic vocoders on "Meet Your Master," reducing the original's guitar blasts to skeletal video-game disco. Ladytron don't fare as well with their superficial gloss on "The Beginning of the End," though: The piling on of glancing bleeps and stretched synths adds little, and the essential structure remains fundamentally unchanged. (Brownie points for tacking on a "Closer" coda at the end, though.)
Year Zero Remixed comes closest to evoking the glory days during its closing stretch. Olof Dreijer boils "Me, I'm Not" down to an endless house-music catwalk of sticky ticks and finger snaps that slowly grows in speed and intensity, with Reznor's vocals being essentially afterthoughts, rotting papier-mâché versions of themselves. Furthermore, the Kronos Quartet and Enrique Gonzalez Miller's interpretation of "Another Version of the Truth" brings a heartbreaking weight and sadness to the dour instrumental that Reznor, for all his technical skills, can't quite bring to bear as a songwriter. For these two tracks, Nine Inch Nails is again unassailably triumphant, shattering, transcendent. And if you believe the potential exists to push Year Zero to still higher peaks, you're as welcome as anyone else to give it a go, too.