A warning: I review anything, new release or not (55% due to my desire for flexibility and 45% because I’m often blissfully not on the ball). This is quite new, though. It’s also the last of my rehomed articles; every post from now on is entirely fresh.
This album is quite fresh too.
In addition to Hesitation Marks being Trent Reznor’s first release under the Nine Inch Nails moniker since 2008’s The Slip, it’s the first NIN release with a major label since his 2007 split with Interscope. Reznor attributes his return from the independent realm to the benefits of a label’s marketing prowess; comparing Hesitation Marks’ chart success with that of NIN’s two previous releases suggests that this was a wise move. However, Hesitation Marks is a more marketable album than the latter anyway; a 36-track instrumental album Is very much one for the established fans, as indeed was The Slip despite some fantastic tracks (notably Echoplex).
In the NIN chronology, Ghosts I-IV and The Slip come across as Reznor’s breathing space. Hesitation Marks is the true sequel to 2007’s Year Zero, while maintaining the clean, punchy electronics that have characterised Reznor’s recent projects.
Opening instrumental The Eater of Dreams would have you fooled; it’s very much rooted in the boiler-room ambience mastered in The Downward Spiral and The Fragile. Nice; very typically Trent; what makes this album special though?
First single Copy of A zooms in on a ride of poppy electronics and punchy, clean, practically danceable rhythm. This is very ‘new’ NIN; quite similar to Echoplex, if a little cheerier (in spite of this album being named for the test cuts preceding a suicide attempt). It’s fantastic, and if this sound remains throughout the album, this is going to be amazing.
Luckily, it does. The first half is – dare I say it -damned funky more than anything, with a pretty little slow interlude in the form of Find My Way. The second half is rather more traditionally NIN, stylistically most resembling Year Zero out of previous albums; it’s a flawless combination of that album and Reznor’s independently released work.
Overall, this one is a shining example of what we may call the ‘Ross years’; Atticus Ross’s production shows off Reznor’s famous thematics and brooding vocals to best effect. May their collaboration long continue.
Download: Copy of A, Disappointed, In Two.
Hesitation Marks track list:
The Eater of Dreams
Copy of A
Came Back Haunted
Find My Way
All Time Low
Various Methods of Escape
I Would for You
While I’m Still Here