Nine Inch Nails Hesitation Marks

Nine Inch NailsHesitation Marks
How to Destroy Angels (Trent Reznor's post-Nine Inch Nails band, which sounded a hell of a lot like Nine Inch Nails) were billed as an equal collaboration between himself and his bandmates. But Reznor's sonic handprints unavoidably get on anything he touches and the similarities left many yearning for a return to the moniker that made him famous. Coming four years since he put NIN on hiatus, Hesitation Marks lacks How to Destroy Angels' more sonically adventurous moments, but brings back the tension and sense of menace that have always marked Reznor's best work. They're pervasive here, even on a track like the New Order-cribbing "Everything," the record's most obvious choice for a single. Reznor doesn't overplay his hand though, crafting an effort that eschews grandiose statements for taught concision. Hesitation Marks is easily the most dance floor-friendly offering he's made since Pretty Hate Machine, leaning as heavily on minimal house beats as industrial clatter. He also skips the meat'n'potatoes rock radio songs that made NIN a staple of the airwaves (i.e., "We're in this Together" or "The Hand that Feeds"), a decision that will no doubt have some crying foul. However, Hesitation Marks is in no way a refutation of what's come before; it's by no means perfect though — the back third, in particular, drags and Reznor's lyrics continue to bear a striking resemblance to teenage poetry. But his sense of urgency is refreshing, given that just four years ago he felt the project had reached a creative dead-end. Hesitation Marks sounds like the companion full-length to the Lost Highway soundtrack's "The Perfect Drug," the most perfect distillation of everything Nine Inch Nails do well. More importantly, it puts Reznor back at the nexus of sonic experimentation and pop hooks. It's the danger that comes from walking that fine line that makes the album such a welcome return. (Columbia)