Words About Music
Nine Inch Nails “Hesitation Marks”
Rumor has it that before Trent Reznor was an Oscar-winning composer for David Fincher’s movies, he was the sole and founding member of a long-term project known as Nine Inch Nails. Through days of strenuous research, I was able to confirm this rumor. Between 1989 and 2009, Reznor released seven albums of varying excellence and levels of experimentation. His music was based on depression, drug abuse, madness, and other extremely dark themes, and he was a founding father of the industrial rock movement, that combined synth pop with heavy metal in a totally not terrible way. Reznor was known for suffering from writers’ block, which resulted in five or six year periods between albums (apart from his period of activity in between 2005 and 2008, during which he released four albums). The world was fairly shocked when Reznor announced the “end” of Nine Inch Nails after a well-received tour in 2009, and the world was somewhat less shocked when he put out an album four years later. Keep in mind, the longest period between albums in Nine Inch Nails’ whole career was between 1999’s double album “The Fragile” and 2005’s “With Teeth.” Not even a hiatus/breakup caused a long period of inactivity for the Nine Inch Nails project, considering Reznor’s between-album gaps.
Trent did quite a bit during the four-year hiatus of his beloved project. He scored “The Social Network” and “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” the former of which he won an Oscar for, and he also formed a group called How To Destroy Angels, with frequent collaborators Atticus Ross and Rob Sheridan, as well as his new wife Mariqueen Maandig. So, Trent hasn’t exactly taken a break from music, he just took a break from the hit-making pretty hate machine that produced tracks like “Head Like A Hole,” “Hurt,” and “Every Day Is Exactly The Same,” among plenty of incredible tracks. So it came as a surprise to me when Trent came back and recorded what could be NIN’s worst album yet.
Guys, I am a Nine Inch Nails fan. I even like “Ghosts I-IV.” I think “The Downward Spiral” and “The Fragile” are two of the best albums of the nineties, and I think Trent Reznor is an insanely talented musician and songwriter. He’s the reason Marilyn Manson is as famous as he is, and he gave Johnny Cash a great end to an illustrious life. But I must say, “Hesitation Marks” sounds incredibly rushed, and is probably the most lyrically bland record he’s ever put out. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still experimenting with new sounds, and it’s definitely paying off (see the incredibly pop-oriented sugar-saturated “Everything”), but a lot of the songs sound like tracks he recorded for “The Downward Spiral” but decided weren’t good enough for that record. “Hesitation Marks” is produced incredibly well, but it finds Trent struggling to find some new ground to cover in terms of lyrics. At times, it almost feels kind of cheesy.
Don’t worry, this album does have its positives. Songs like “Copy Of A,” “Disappointed,” and “Running” are well written and well structured, whereas songs like “Came Back Haunted” and “While I’m Still Here” are extremely well produced and filled with the electro-noise instrumentals that Trent is best at. I can’t really same the same for those tracks in terms of lyrical content.
Overall, “Hesitation Marks” feels like less of a comeback and more like Trent though “that How to Destroy Angels record didn’t work out so I guess I’ll record some more NIN tracks.” If you ask me, the How to Destroy Angels album is better than “Hesitation Marks.” It’s hard to believe that this is the guy who recorded some of the past two decades’ finer songs, like “Wish” and “March of the Pigs” and “Down In It.” It has its good tracks like most NIN albums do, but unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good. If I were you, I’d hesitate to listen to this album.
SCORE – 5.5
FAVORITE TRACKS – Copy Of A, Came Back Haunted, Disappointed, Everything, Running, I Would For You, In Two