Nine Inch Nails through the Decades: Opinion by Gabe Potter

[title size=”1 to 6″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Hesitation Marks album grade: ‘B-‘[/title]

The evolution of Nine Inch Nails comes with the evolution of technology. At Lollapalooza this summer, Trent Reznor walked out to a single lamp light, with a little audio synthesizer sitting right next to it. Reznor starts the show by performing “Copy of A,” a single from Hesitation Marks, NIN’s 2013 release after five quiet years. Alone, with his light, Reznor portrays this synthesizing music as minimalistic. And as the show progresses and as songs from my childhood start to emerge, so does the spectacle that is Nine Inch Nails.

This spectacle isn’t limited to Nine Inch Nails, but all hall of fame caliber groups have a professional presentation that allows them to stand above other bands. The visual aesthetic of a band like NIN, the Red Hot Chili Peppers—any hall of fame band—adds something that bands under that caliber just don’t have.

Seeing a band live does a couple of things for you. But the biggest thing you notice, is the fans of the group. NIN is very grunge in the fact that they are dystopian. I remember when the album Year Zero came out. That was the first album I really understood being bigger than girls, booze, and a good Saturday night.

But what do fans of NIN—the dystopian men fighting the system—look like? Honestly, it looks like a bunch of guys in their mid-30s, who are reminiscing their time in high school. And high school must have looked bleak to them. Next, NIN released The Downward Spiral, the album with “March of the Pigs,” “Closer,” and “Hurt.” Radiohead a year later released The Bends. I could only imagine what was going through their heads as they read Orwell.

But these fans grew old. Trent Reznor grew old.

Trent Reznor is arguably the most talented musician today. With that being said, Reznor is still in his own shadow. Reznor, like his fans, have grown up. He’s come a long ways from producing Marilyn Manson albums and winning an Oscar for his soundtrack with The Social Network.

When I see these NIN fans now, I don’t see the mosh-pitting fans I heard about growing up. I see grown men reliving childhood memories.

Hesitation Marks breathes mid-2000s NIN (computer-induced, heavy rock and roll). I think other reviewers will call it a more “mature” sound. But I think it’s more of a thing where Trent Reznor, who is in his mid-40s, doesn’t want to be caught saying “my empire of shit.” I call it diet Nine Inch Nails. These songs, particularly the opening tracks, are trying to be edgy but not controversial tracks.

That doesn’t mean the tracks are bad. Some of these tracks actually fit perfectly in NIN’s one hour and 45 minute set. However, the track I love the most on this album is “Everything.” It’s a track that is so un-NIN, that it will never see the light in a concert. However, if Trent Reznor and NIN can get away from their target audience, I would love to see more of this type of music.

This album would have benefited coming out before “With Teeth.” This album is so complete, and a better album than “With Teeth.” But this album lacks the star singles that previous NIN albums have had. If Hesitation Marks would have came out before With Teeth, this electronic sound would have been edgy and new, just like With Teeth was. Hesitation Marks is in the shadows of With Teeth’s “Only” and “The Hand That Feeds.”

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