I’ve been a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails since I came across a copy of The Downward Spiral as a teenager. I don’t know that there exists a better record for an angry, lost and depressed teenager to hear. The songs were violent, loud and made me feel like someone else knew what I was going through. I was in love. It wasn’t long before I was listening to Pretty Hate Machine and Broken. I bought The Fragile soon after it came out and even bought a second copy after I lost the first. I went to a listening party for With Teeth before it came out.
Then things kind of went downhill. Ghosts is an interesting album, but it’s not what I think of when I’m thinking of NIN. Year Zero is a good album, but it kind of drags toward the end. The Slip is good, but I wouldn’t pay for it.
So I guess I was hoping that Hesitation Marks would be a return to form for one of my favorite bands. I was hoping for a return to the visceral raging cock-rock that made me want to scream along and be happy about being depressed. But instead it just makes me depressed. The most fitting thing about this album is the title. It’s a cry for help all right; just not the kind we’ve come to expect from Trent Reznor.
“Copy of a” and “Came Back Haunted” are both good tunes with some interesting keyboard work, but they don’t get my blood moving. “All Time Low” has a funky beat I don’t think I’ve ever heard in a Nine Inch Nails song. “I Would For You” is probably the highest energy track on the album. It’s good, but I’m not sure how to take a NIN’s love song. “In Two” is a fast-paced noise fest, but not enough to save the album. The best guitar comes in “While I’m Still Here,” but lasts barely long enough to be registered. And Reznor does work out his vocal chords a bit on this record, hitting some higher notes than I’ve ever heard from him.
I’d like to forget all about “Everything.” Let’s just pretend that song doesn’t exist.
But in the end, it’s not the music that I’m disappointed in, but the lack of rage. At no point on this album is there screaming. There is no “Hey God!” or “Slave Screams!” or “Don’t You Fucking Know What You Are!” and that’s the aspect that’s lacking more than the loud guitars or heavy drums.
Sure, Mariqueen Maandig is one very, very beautiful woman and I fully relate to how it would be hard to be seething with animosity when you can have sex with her anytime you like. I’m sure I wouldn’t be very pissed off if I could tap that. And I’m not angry at her for taking “my” Trent away from me. Mr. Reznor has as much right as anyone else to a happy life. But Mrs. Maandig, if you’re reading this, could you be just a little bit more of a bitch so we could get some more good songs out of him.
Don’t be too much of a bitch though, we don’t want another Kurt Cobain.
Hesitation Marksputs me in mind of Soundgarden’s King Animal. I loved Soundgarden growing up, but still haven’t been able to get into that album much. Maybe it’s because I’m older or because I won’t be dubbing the album to a cassette tape to listen to in a Walkman. But while King Animal sounds like a mediocre album made by a great band, Hesitation Marks is an album made by a once-great band becoming mediocre.
I’ll be catching the live show on October 5 and hopefully it’ll be as good as when I saw them back in 1999 at my first rock concert. But this may be the last tour before they fade into oblivion with Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins.