Nine Inch Nails: Hesitation Marks
Over the course of the decades that encompass Trent Reznor’s career as Nine Inch Nails, the angst and pain of youth is what rang out most, in contrast to his actual upbringing. The music was catchy, loud, interesting and it didn’t overstay its welcome to an extreme. In 2008, NIN switched it up for a concept album and ambitious Alternate Reality Game: Year Zero. The impeccable concept album channeled Reznor’s visceral, immature rage into something shiny, noisy, and politically charged, and unfortunately still rings true to this day. After an organic release and some ambient music Reznor switched gears to even more dissonant sounds: soundtrack work and How to Destroy Angels; both of them easily topping Nine Inch Nails in longevity of relevance and perpetual entertainment. In fact, it may have been an upset to hear of Nine Inch Nails' return.
Nevertheless, after five short years, He’s back in full swing. Hesitation Marks is as much a retrospective as David Bowie’s The Next Day was; Reznor, however, is more eager to dive right into his past. The whole release plays off of every facet of Reznor’s career as Nine Inch Nails from loud percussion to stark, angular minimalism. The small intro, The Eater of Dreams, harkens back to Broken-to-Downward Spiral-era dissonance to jar the dust that has settled on his back-catalog a la Pinion and The Downward Spiral’s title track. Copy of A leads off immediately afterward with throbbing electronics bookmarking emotional lyricism, written in a much more refined and literal fashion, which is what made With Teeth so successful. This is a formula that pays off for a lot of songs on the release, but by the fourth or fifth exercise in 90’s finesse, it gets a tad stale.
Fortunately, between these glistening electro-jams are lean, powerful heavy hitters in the form of jagged guitar, growls and moans about the status quo and sharp percussion. Songs like Everything, I Would For You, and In Two are absolutely blood pumping, but the songs are rather hard to tell apart. A rarity for Nine Inch Nails is the groovy, sexy jams; All Time Low, Satellite, and Various Methods of Escape are grand examples of this blue-moon archetype, and none of them cheapen the idiom with their frequency. Reznor’s gentle rap scrapes ever so gently against the incredibly reserved guitar. As always, what makes for an entirely too entertaining release from Trent Reznor is the minimalist forays into the void. Find my Way and Running are powerful and deep cuts that echo for eons, but While I’m Still Here is a gem because of its slow fade into static while Trent croons on. Black Noise closes the record with a sort of reprise for the lyrical precursor, essentially shaking off any debt to his ambient release Ghosts I-IV, the most sought after NIN release.
Nine Inch Nails Website
Listen to Came Back Haunted.
Buy Hesitation Marks.