Review Summary: Looks like the "bad bitch" part of Trent Reznor must have been out to lunch for the recording of his album Hesitation Marks."
Thank God Trent Reznor dropped the pissed off schtick that hasn’t been genuine since the 90s. While his mid 2000s work was admirable in its own right, the aggressive emotions that plagued each album became sillier and less believable as time went on. And yes one could argue that this is the appeal to Nine Inch Nails, as the band’s first two albums are still regarded as landmark achievements. All this, of course, is due to the dark and grimy subject matter that was palpable throughout each outing. However, as Trent Reznor has aged the dark and dispiriting aura that surrounds the man has gone from enticing to outright ridiculous. After all, with one hot wife, two successful projects, and an Oscar, it’s about time we saw a different side to Mr. Reznor.
Thankfully, Hesitation Marks
sees Nine Inch Nails in rare form. While not expressly bright and hopeful, the overall mood of the record is a tad bit lighter than we’re accustomed to. While the grimy, tense feeling still permeates every facet of the album, songs like “Everyday” sound damn near poppy. Lyrically NIN is still passing by with amateur prose and goofy wordings but the lighter tone is noticed here as well. Yet the biggest surprise is not how different Trent presents himself, but rather, how very “Nine Inch Nails” the album feels. After half a decade of experimenting with all sorts of drone and ambience, one would expect the band to stay the course. However, Hesitation Marks
is very much a firm adherence to NIN’s mid-career work, albeit a tad more refined. Albums such as With Teeth
and Year Zero
can be heard here, at times very heavily. The punchy bass and catchy rhythms really drive the entire work, much like with the aforementioned records. It’s refreshing to hear it all work out so well, adding up to the most naturally enjoyable and endearing album of the band’s career. It’s a neat mish-mash of influences, as the addicting pace of “Copy of A” hearken back to Reznor’s older material, while the unsettling falsetto found on “In Two” points to something new and exciting. And therein lies the true success of Nine Inch Nails’ eighth outing, with the band finding the perfect sweet spot in their storied career.
In spite of it all, the record lacks the depth found in Nine Inch Nail’s previous records and the engrossing brilliance of their more experimental leanings. All that aside, Hesitation Marks
stands as incredibly solid, perhaps more so than any record put out by the band in over a decade. Dropping the half-assed delivery and boosting all that has made the band a household name, Nine Inch Nails have returned from “hiatus” with an album deserving of their legacy.