What they been feedin' Trent Reznor?

With Beef 

What they been feedin' Trent Reznor?

Trent Reznor appeared genuinely vulnerable on early Nine Inch Nails releases, with stringy locks topping his severe features and spindly frame. This was the original goth gone wild, a cowering, black-clad outcast finally bullied past his breaking point. But after his traditional lengthy layoff between albums, Reznor returned to the road in support of 2005's With Teeth looking like Lou Ferrigno in Sinbad of the Seven Seas.

If any Royals player reported to spring training this week looking like Reznor, sportswriters would start rifling the locker-room trash for syringes. Body-building drugs traditionally rank low on the list of rock stars' preferred substances, but for purely educational purposes, we ran Reznor through the National Institute on Drug Abuse's checklist of steroid-user symptoms.

Increased irritability and aggression: Reznor's irritability and aggression levels have remained remarkably consistent over the past 17 years, with every record soaked in steaming bile. This either clears his name or suggests that it took more than a decade before someone told him steroid users must actually lift weights to add bulk.

Distractibility: Reznor has waited at least five years between each full-length release, plugging the gaps with sporadically listenable EPs. It's the discography of an easily diverted artist.

Sexual arousal: "Closer" turned I wanna fuck you like an animal into an unlikely mainstream-radio refrain. With its provocative lyrics and pulsing beats, Nine Inch Nails dominates surveys about "music that gets you in the mood," suggesting the arousal effects could be contagious.

Testicular atrophy: After a mid-'90s tryst, profoundly unreliable witness Courtney Love quipped that Reznor should rename his group "Three Inch Nails." Evidence suggests that steroidal shrinkage doesn't affect phallic metaphors, though: In "Big Man With a Gun," Reznor boasts, Got me a big old dick.

Growth stunting: At 5-feet-6, Reznor recalls diminutive demons such as Glenn Danzig and Ronnie James Dio.

Increased energy: Reznor has always been an unhinged entertainer, brandishing equipment with reckless disregard for his touring musicians' safety. That's bad news for his hired guns, given that Reznor with a microphone stand now resembles Conan the Barbarian with a broadsword. But for audiences, Reznor's relentless performances are riveting, regardless of the source of his boosted vitality.

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