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Hesitation Marks

Nine Inch Nails

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Album Review

Retirement never suited Trent Reznor. A workaholic who tempers his obsessive nature with a healthy streak of perfectionism, Reznor has put Nine Inch Nails in hibernation before, but the difference between the five years separating 2013's Hesitation Marks and 2008's The Slip and his previous extended gaps — the half-decade between 1994's The Downward Spiral and The Fragile, the six years between The Fragile and 2005's With Teeth — is that Reznor didn't go into seclusion, he merely stepped away from NIN. David Fincher drafted him to score The Social Network in 2010 — Trent received an Academy Award for his trouble — and that same year he formed How to Destroy Angels with longtime collaborator Atticus Ross and Mariqueen Maandig. Echoes of these two projects can be heard within the disciplined, detailed Hesitation Marks but much of the album's measured mood derives from the great settling within Reznor's personal life. He married Maandig in 2009 and subsequently had two children, so he's a decidedly different musician in 2013 than he was in 1993: he's not the tortured, angry young rebel struggling with addictions and angst, he's a sober family man. Sobriety centered Reznor and working in other capacities reinvigorated him, leading to the masterful Hesitation Marks, where he cannily evokes the past within the cloak of the future while focusing on the present. Certainly, Hesitation Marks brings to mind some of the earliest Nine Inch Nails records, particularly in how it's built upon actual danceable rhythms, but the sonic palette is brighter and broader than either Pretty Hate Machine or The Downward Spiral, feeling expansive even when it's punctuated with jarring, jagged bursts of electric noise and bursts of clustered beats. Reznor enlisted a bunch of art rock vets to help achieve this coiled, cloistered sound — King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew and bassist Pino Palladino play often, Lindsey Buckingham throws in some guitar; on the deluxe edition, Todd Rundgren Utopia-fies "All Time Low" with layers of harmonies — and the additional musicians help keep the album open. Even if "Everything" — a surprising power pop rush that's easily the most exuberant Nine Inch Nails has ever sounded — was excised, Hesitation Marks would qualify as the most hopeful NIN album ever. Pain still punctuates the lyrics, Reznor still slides into moody black pools of sound, but there is no wallowing here, no fetishization of darkness. There is shade and light within Reznor's immaculate constructions, there is the ebb and flow of life, there is joy within the sheer sheets of sound. Hesitation Marks makes it quite clear that Trent Reznor is no longer an angry young man but rather a restless, inventive artist who is at peace with himself, and the result is a record that provides real, lasting nourishment.

Customer Reviews

Trent 'n Co.'s Best effort since The Fragile

Hesitation Marks is exactly what NIN is at this point, and where it should be. Every track is a refreshing taste, of what all of us hard core halo collectors have been waiting for. Not to say that everything that NIN has done in the past 15 years has not been up to par (because there are some tracks out there that have been), but this album is beyond what I have expected based on what we have gotten. Hook up your head phones, kick back, and enjoy the sonic bliss of "Hesitation Marks" from track one to the end... Then press repeat.

Missing the real NIN

Please tell me where have the guitars gone!!! What happened to the NIN that wrote Wish and Burn and Reptile?

The first full listen made me sweat.

This is a good thing, people. I want my NIN to initiate a speeding ticket and subsequent interrogation as to what I may or may not be on. After such dedication, receiving this gift of an album may just be the best part of 2013. In particular, Copy of a is my current go-to track, but each has its own unique element of Y E S to it. One feels every breath, tastes the sweat, infuses the energy into the system with the insatiability of an addict. This one could be a problem.

Biography

Formed: 1989 in Cleveland, OH

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Nine Inch Nails were the most popular industrial group ever and were largely responsible for bringing the music to a mass audience. It isn't really accurate to call NIN a group; the only official member is singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Trent Reznor, who always remained solely responsible for NIN's musical direction (he was, however, supported in concert by a regular backing band). Unlike the vast majority of industrial artists, Reznor wrote melodic, traditionally structured songs where lyrics...
Full Bio
Hesitation Marks, Nine Inch Nails
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