Track of the Day: 'Something I Can Never Have' by Kite Base

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

In Nine Inch Nails’ catalogue of gloriously spittle-flecked airings of self-pity, only “Something I Can Never Have,” off of 1989’s Pretty Little Hate Machine, is so raw as to be nearly unlistenable. That’s not a criticism. With a far-off-sounding piano, some bad poetry, and his inimitably ugly wail, Trent Reznor absolutely captured the devastation of a young man humiliated by his own desire.

But a haunting cover from Kite Base—a new band featuring Ayşe Hassan of the fearsome rock act Savages—uses female voices and electric bass to turn Reznor’s pathos into dark, dignified grandeur. With chanting used as rhythm and Kendra Frost’s steady, affectless delivery of Reznor’s lyrics, this new take on the song highlights the simple musical power of the original without taking too much emotional toll:

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