Hesitation Marks - Nine Inch Nails
by Tara Alexander (@redtalyn)
From the first time I heard the electronic, industrial waste sound of 'Head Like a Hole' at the tender age of 13, I was hooked. A friend of mine had been given the cassette tape (ah, the good ol' days) and we listened to it from beginning to end and back again for hours. I knew that this music was different from the country/ pop genres I had been raised on, and I wanted that sound to define my life forever. Now here we are, 15 years later, and my love for this band has only grown ever stronger.
After a five year hiatus to work on other projects, including various film soundtracks and becoming a husband and father, Trent Reznor (lead vocalist, song writer, and musician) offers up his tenth studio album, 'Hesitation Marks.' I've said it before, and I will say it again: the man is a genius.
NIN are of course known for having a sound like no other, and Reznor is so capable of evolving with the times it's hard to believe that 'Pretty Hate Machine' was released in 1989. The album captures the essence of the NIN sound while still sounding fresh and relevant to the genres of today. The album starts off with a signature instrumental track overlaid with what sounds like a high school recorder (remember those things?) entitled 'The Eater of Dreams,' then propels us into the irresistibly toe- tapping beat of 'Copy of A,' followed by the hit single 'Came Back Haunted,' (video directed by David Lynch) a huffy, scratchy song with an undeniably addictive chorus; both songs are powerful and catchy, as Reznor uses electro-sonic beats to round out the tunes. Next up is the solemn 'Find My Way,' a prayer of sorts that Reznor performs beautifully.
The meat of the album includes 'All Time Low,' a jazzy, sensuous song that showcases the parameters of Reznor's talents. 'Disappointed' is an ode to the classic sound of NIN; the next track, 'Everything,' is the only track on the album that feels out of place, as it has a fun, poppy rhythm overlaid with an acoustic indie guitar riff that may turn off some NIN listeners. The aptly named 'Satellite,' a song about the paranoia brought on by the NSA, is a synthesizer laden track whose lyrics are spot on.
'Various Methods of Escape' and 'I Would for You' are both sweeping, dark melodies full of typical NIN angst and regret, and they are so well executed it may cause an irrepressible swell of emotions to bubble up inside your chest. 'Running' is a soft, chunky song with a variety of strange sounds and whispered lyrics. 'In Two,' is a song about the idea of parenthood, which Reznor has recently found himself thrust into. The album is finished off by the quiet yet soulful 'While I'm Still Here,' and ends as it began with a loud, disorienting amalgam of sounds entitled 'Black Noise.'
Overall, I am impressed and satisfied with Reznor's latest effort, and the tour that he has coupled with the release is nothing short of amazing, as he is breaking all of his rules and challenging himself with a fresh live act, which includes utilizing two female backup vocalists, Sharlotte Gibson and Lisa Fischer, changing the shape and feel of some classic songs and highlighting new ones. Even after 25 years Reznor manages to stay relevant in a business where success in never a guarantee, merely an empty promise unless your true talent gives way to something more. I am always looking forward to new music by Reznor, whether it comes in the form of NIN or a soundtrack or as part of his side project with his wife. Reznor's capabilities as a musician shine through at every interval and it is an attestation of his commitment to his art and I, for one, couldn’t imagine it being any other way.