Review Summary: Subtract noise, multiply choruses, divide fanbase.
There's nothing on Add Violence
that Nine Inch Nails fans haven't heard before. Maybe this is a strange criticism of a thirty-year-old project largely masterminded by one artist; possibly it's even the point. But Not the Actual Events
proved economically that there were still unexplored vistas for Reznor and co., even if they involved slathering fuzz and noise on top of the tracks until they sounded like staticky transmissions from the heart of a nuclear winter. By comparison, Add Violence
returns us to the bite-sized pop with-a-dark-side which has been Reznor's bread and butter since 2005, but without the energy of Dave Grohl pounding the drum kit like it said a bad word about Kurt Cobain.
Trent Reznor knows how to compose music, and he's had a lot of practice at sticking to the stuff he does well. "The Lovers" initially seems like a shameless reprise of its predecessor's respective second track and only quiet moment, "Dear World," which swapped out the crushing noise and furious energy for a more subtle, sly type of anger. But as "The Lovers" builds to a gorgeous yearning chorus, it calls back more to the Year Zero
days, when barely-heard spoken word sections rubbing against massive hooks seemed to be the backbone of at least half the album. "Not Anymore" finds itself much more in debt to its companion track, "The Idea of You", down to the presence of pounding drums and a punkish, raucous spirit; at this point a musical pattern between the two EPs becomes pretty obvious, and all the interesting ideas of mirroring and looping that this raises sort of
overcome the rising feelings of inertia and musical deja vu, but also they don't quite. "The Background World" is the only track that really catches you off guard, as a looping nine-second sound – so meta
- of something going very, very wrong and corrupting the world around it invites you into the depths of this dark alternate reality, like a disgusting perversion of Ghosts I-IV
's contemplative ambient stretches. The presence of lyrical ideas like bleedthrough, a society in chaos, and strange worlds in the background of ours indicate that this trilogy of EPs is particularly indebted to the concepts of Year Zero
and With Teeth
, potentially even residing in the same thematic universe. All of which is fine, yeah, but it raises one burning question in me – in a body of work concerned with incomprehensible other dimensions, ghostly presences, and things not supposed to be understood bleeding into our own, why does everything have to sound so damn familiar?