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CD Review: Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hesitation Marks’

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Three and a half stars

Nine Inch Nails Hesitation Marks

Surely no one took Trent Reznor seriously when he said he was retiring Nine Inch Nails, but taking time away from his main outlet turned out to be a good idea, because Hesitation Marks, the first NIN album since 2008’s The Slip, is clearly invigorated by Reznor’s work on movie scores (The Social Network, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and with side project How to Destroy Angels. Like his music on those other projects, Hesitation Marks is more icy and atmospheric than the intense industrial of NIN’s best known work, but it also has a surprising pop accessibility that harkens all the way back to 1989 NIN debut Pretty Hate Machine.

Songs like “Copy of A,” “Came Back Haunted” and “Satellite” are catchy and even potentially danceable, and right in the middle of the album is a genuine guitar-driven power-pop song (“Everything”) that sounds like nothing Reznor has recorded before. Some of the more subdued, minimalist songs are a little unfocused, and it’s hard not to miss Reznor’s ferocious anger at least a little bit. Still, Hesitation Marks is a strong step forward for Nine Inch Nails, and further proof that Reznor need not actually retire his most famous creation any time soon.

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