Hesitation Marks

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Click for availability and more information Hesitation Marks, Nine Inch Nails
First, a word about reviews. In reading the many reviews so far for Hesitation Marks, Nine Inch Nails' first album in five years, a simple fact was once again made very apparent to me: those reviewers (like me) who love this album had to give it many repeat listens before being able to get into it. This is something I've known about Trent Reznor's music for decades. It's something I'd say that most of the fans seem to know. And it is something so-called "professional" reviewers claiming any expertise on the band are also supposed to know (hence the "professional" moniker). There isn't a single NIN album I've ever listened to where I was able to "get it" on one pass, and the same goes for any credible music critics I've ever heard from. And yet there are those out there who insist on making the mistake of assuming that they can mentally, aesthetically, rhythmically absorb an entire album this complex and layered in one sitting and then have anything meaningful to say about it. I hope like heck I'm not coming off as pretentious or elitist here because I truly am not trying to be, but for someone to give a new NIN album a proper chance, I believe at least a minimum of a half-dozen listens is required to really begin to grasp the depth and complexity of the music. For me, I'm well past a dozen listens and I'm still picking up all kinds of new things, and I know I still will be even after the next dozen. And yet I've been seeing occasional reviews by professionals (and amateurs) who insist on trying to write an intelligible review after their single solitary listen, only to end up sounding foolish. So, word to the wise: just like every other NIN album ever released, you'll want to give Hesitation Marks a proper chance to work its way into your head--the time investment truly pays off here.130621-nine-inch-nails.jpg

That said, one does not so much "listen" to a NIN album as "experience" it. Don't get me wrong--there are the more immediately accessible tracks (inevitably released as singles) such as "Came Back Haunted" and "Copy of a" (and I would say "Satellite" fits the bill as well) that can each stand on its own readily enough from the start before one has had a chance to discover other soon-to-be favorites. But there's an overall compositional/thematic structure to each NIN album that lends itself more to complete listening once the novelty of the singles begins to wear off. If I had to put a name to it, my impression of Hesitation Marks's over-arching theme is one of "evolution". The persona or alter-ego Trent Reznor often refers to in his lyrics seems to have undergone some metamorphosis and is leaving his old self behind (this concept is at its most overt, I feel, in "Everything"). I doubt this is coincidence, given the changes he's experienced in his personal life over the past few years (marriage, children, etc). 7000306519_a35235d68b_z.jpgThe music itself has also changed; I've heard Trent Reznor previously described elsewhere as never doing the same thing twice, and I think it's true. Every NIN album sounds different from every other. He (and his collaborators, I should say) experiments with new sounds, instruments, melodies... Hesitation Marks carries on boldly with that tradition, though I know I've picked up on intentional references to previous work in a number of tracks. As an example, in "Various Methods of Escape" I even noticed something reminiscent of the opening credits scoring Trent composed for the movie Se7en! But I feel that these sprinkled references to past compositions serve, mainly by comparison, to highlight the progression or evolution along new musical directions. This is even evident in the album art, which evokes that of The Downward Spiral while still managing to be something new (it's no wonder, really, given that the same artist, Russell Mills, is responsible for both).

I can't recommend this album highly enough. It has something for almost every NIN fan, and I'm sure it will entice new ones as well. I'm eager to see how and which songs get worked into NIN's phenomenal live show when I go to see them in October.

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This page contains a single entry published on September 19, 2013 10:45 PM.

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