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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Nine Inch Nails -- Hesitation Marks


Well, this is it. Hesitation Marks, the last Nine Inch Nails album Trent Reznor has released, at least as of 2016. I'll be honest and say that Hesitation Marks isn't my favorite Nine Inch Nails album, but I like it a lot. You can tell with those early (and awesome) Nine Inch Nails albums that Reznor was really experimenting like crazy, tossing a million things into the audio mix to achieve a full, chaotic, yet cohesive sound. The results were great, but few out of their 20's can keep up that kind of relentless experimentation.
The good things is, we have experience to make up for that. You learn enough techniques, and enough about yourself to get what you want just a little bit more easily. Reznor has spent the majority of the last decade, artistically that is, as a film composer. He's racked up an Oscar and a Golden Globe in that role (for The Social Network), as well as a Grammy (for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), as well as a load of other nominations for a load of other awards.
It's not difficult to notice Trent contributing what he's learned in film scoring while listening to Hesitation Marks. The atmospheric soundscapes sound more the product of meticulous planning than crazy experiments. At this point, it's safe to say that Reznor knows his stuff.
On an instrumental level, Hesitation Marks satisfies, finding new aural realms for Reznor to inhabit in his FOURTH decade in the music business. The electronic sounds are even more cinematic than usual, and the beats sound both retro (like 70's electronic retro) and new. The live instrumentation, as usual, blends in nicely with the electronic work. The more rash experimentation that is here, namely the major key upbeat dabbling in "Everything" is a bit jarring, and I am too biased toward Reznor's darker work to be objective about it. Whether you like it or not, it does bother the flow of the album just a bit, hindering it's cohesion. Then again, there's the lyrics...
"Everything" finds Reznor almost joyously contemplating the fact that he has survived to live a happy life with a beautiful (fellow musician) wife and two kids, when he suddenly ponders despondently:

But this thing that lives inside of me
Will surely rise and wake
And his seed that bleeds right through to me
As it comes to grab and take and take and take and take

He knows that the darkness is still there. Much of Hesitation Marks' lyrics appear to center around Reznor's reflections upon his past addictions, and how deeply he fears he will fall back into them. This makes for a consistent, moving lyrical experience, even if the music falters in consistency for a moment. Still, it's just a moment, and Reznor is musically on point for the rest. For me, the lyrical and musical peak is track nine, "Various Methods of Escape," as Trent chants in the surprise quiet of the bridge, "I think I could lose myself in here."

Well, that's about all I have to say about Nine Inch Nails.

2013 Columbia Records/The Null Corporation
1. The Eater of Dreams 0:52
2. Copy of a 5:23
3. Came Back Haunted 5:17
4. Find My Way 5:16
5. All Time Low 6:18
6. Disappointed 5:44
7. Everything 3:20
8. Satellite 5:03
9. Various Methods of Escape 5:01
10. Running 4:08
11. I Would for You 4:33
12. In Two 5:32
13. While I'm Still Here 4:03
14. Black Noise 1:29

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