Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks (2013)

Listening to a new Nine Inch Nails album is always a journey. Sometimes the albums have to grow on the listener to get the full effect. “The Downward Spiral” and “The Fragile” aren’t easy listens the first time, but their full genius comes out after a couple of spins. Once the albums click, the reward is immense. Trent Reznor created transcendent masterpieces with those albums. After “The Fragile” however, the music took a little turn and while they were good in their own right, they just didn’t have the substance that the earlier albums had. “With Teeth” was more accessible than previous efforts and it wasn’t really that good. “Year Zero” got back to the noisier sound but it still wasn’t quite up to par. “Ghosts I-IV” was a great instrumental album while “The Slip” brought NIN back to the “With Teeth” sound but was a little better than the latter. Now five years later, Trent Reznor has given the listeners what sounds like the true successor to “The Fragile.” “Hesitation Marks” is an absolute triumph and a welcome return to form. The album rarely missteps and is by far the best album in fourteen years. Yea, it’s that good.

The album opens up with “The Eater of Dreams” which sets the mood perfectly for the rest of the album and is a perfect intro to “Copy of A.” “Copy of A” is one of the best tracks on the album with a beat and chorus that will get stuck in your head for days. “Came Back Haunted” is another great track that sounds like it was written for “The Fragile.” It’s such a welcomed song and it shows all the nay-sayers that Trent Reznor is still capable of writing great fucking songs. “Find My Way” slows things down in a good way. It’s soothing and somewhat pretty sounding. The music sounds like it’s off of “Ghosts I-IV” and it creates a haunting picture of beauty and loss. “All Time Low” takes the album in a different, funkier direction. Even though it’s different that most of the NIN material, it’s still incredible. Chalk it up to another great track on a stellar album. “Disappointed” goes back to the electronic sound that started the album off, but isn’t as good as those tracks. It’s not a bad track, it just goes on a little too long and doesn’t really have a payoff. Although if you took it off completely, the album wouldn’t have the same vibe.

“Everything” is probably the biggest departure from anything Trent Reznor has done. It’s a straight poppy rock song with guitars that sound like “Wish” era The Cure. It also has harmonies! Even though it’s a big departure and it’s poppy, it’s still a good song that fits perfectly into the grand scheme of the album. It’s also one of the most happy sounding songs he’s ever written. “Satellite” is a good track that doesn’t do anything new, but keeps the album flowing perfectly. “Various Methods of Escape” is another personal favorite that just hits the nail on the head. Everything about the song, from the music to the vocals, just works. Yet another high point on the album. “Running” is another track that is so-so. Again, it keeps the mood of the album but it just doesn’t do anything to keep the listener engaged. It’s probably the only skippable track on the album. “I Would For You” brings the album back up and delivers a solid song that won’t be forgotten. The atmosphere in this song is absolutely perfect. “In Two” is a strange track that needs a couple of listens to get the full effect. “While I’m Still Here” and “Black Noise” are basically the same track and the album couldn’t close any better. They’re slower songs and mostly instrumental, but the album feels completely wrapped up once “Black Noise” is over.

So there you have it; the best NIN album in fourteen years. Don’t be fooled by the pop approach on some of the tracks, everything falls into place when the entire album is heard. As with the rest of the NIN albums, it’s supposed to be listened to all together, not just single tracks. With songs like “Copy of A”, “Came Back Haunted,” "All Time Low,” and “Various Methods of Escape,” it’s hard to ignore “Hesitation Marks.” Even though a couple of the tracks aren’t as good as the rest of the album, this is still the record that every NIN fan has been waiting for. The beauty of it all is that it gets better with each listen. There are so many layers and little details that the other albums lacked that make “Hesitation Marks” great.  Alright, enough of my praise. Listen to this album now. It’s a true testament that shows people that Trent Reznor still knows how to make great fucking music. 


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