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Published: 2013/09/21
by Ron Hart

Nine Inch Nails
Hesitation Marks

Nothing-Columbia

One key aspect of Trent Reznor’s artistic scope that doesn’t seem to be conveyed enough by the folks who write about this sort of thing is the man’s aptitude as a pop songwriter.

True, many might scoff at considering Nine Inch Nails to be a pop group. But on the same token, how could you not? There aren’t too many artists who can spit out a line like “I want to fuck you like an animal” and transform it into an arena-fueled sing-along, right?

In fact, the majority of NIN’s best songs have an infectiously melodic quality that shines through any coating of digital chaos Reznor slathers on top of it, be it “Terrible Lie,” “Wish”, the afore-quoted “Closer” or “The Hand That Feeds.” And with tracks like “Hurt” and “Something I Can Never Have,” he’s proven his mastery at the art of the alternative power ballad.

It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard from that Trent, the songwriter. The man who made the world dance and shout to his own sorrow and fears as the true icon of the industrial era. And with Hesitation Marks, the first NIN LP to ever appear on Columbia Records, he returns in spades.

There is a balance between the more commercial Reznor and the Trent of the last decade who helped change the landscape of film scoring with his experimental exceptionalism as a bicep-busting Brian Eno of sorts across these 13 new tracks, which include guest appearances from such rock heavyweights as Adrian Belew, Lindsey Buckingham and Pino Palladino. And a pretty steady one at that; not too much pummel, not too much pause that mines the best moments of the TVT days and the headier aspects of such works as The Fragile and Ghosts I-IV.

But as key tracks like ubiquitous second cut “Copy of A,” the David Lynch-directed video hit “Came Back Haunted” and the brilliantly skittery mid-tempo groovers like “Various Methods of Escape” and “While I’m Still Here” testify, the middle ground achieved here is quite profound and will no doubt grow on you with each listen (preferably in the car).

If you are one of those people who say they love Nine Inch Nails but haven’t listened to an album of theirs since The Downward Spiral, find your way back into Reznor’s web with Hesitation Marks.

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