2MUSIC- print

“I survived everything/I have tried everything,” Trent Reznor sings on a new Nine Inch Nails song, the catchy and upbeat “Everything.” Wait, did I just type that sentence? Those can not be words that come out of any person describing Nine Inch Nails. And yet “Everything” is just one of many shocks to come when you first listen to the Nine Inch Nails’ comeback “Hesitation Marks.”

It kind of makes sense, because the idea of a Nine Inch Nails album in 2013 was a surprise in itself. After a 2009 run with Jane’s Addiction that literally shook arenas, Reznor suddenly announced that he was shelving Nine Inch Nails, possibly forever. Instead, he occupied the void with a new band, as well as an unlikely yet successful side gig composing film music. But in 2012, Reznor felt the itch again, and less than a year later, revived the band it seemed he would never return to.

Nine Inch Nails are back, but they have clearly left a lot of things behind. There is still plenty of darkness on the album to go around, like on the intensely paranoid “Satellite,” with lyrics that could have been penned by Alex Jones: “Do your trails, like fingernails/Scratch across the sky?/Hard to know, figure out/Tell the truth, from lies.”

But the veil of misanthropy that you could practically hear and feel in classic albums like “The Downward Spiral” and “The Fragile” has largely lifted, and even the music has less of the industrial rage, replaced with poppier electro grooves, stuttering found sounds, and glitches. It is an awesome sound, and something great for Nine Inch Nails to explore, but I can not shake the feeling that “Hesitation Marks” does not have the bite of some of its predecessors.

It is still a Nine Inch Nails record, though, so excellence reigns. My favorites are the wonderfully addictive “Copy of A,” which has a gothic trance vibe, interspersed with guitar from Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, and “Came Back Haunted,” which is the most danceable thing Nine Inch Nails has ever released.

I think that “Hesitation Marks” may be one of those albums that requires a lot of listening to truly appreciate, which Reznor would be the first to admit he was going for. While I will enjoy listening to it, I may just be more tempted to put “The Fragile” on again.