Nine Inch Nails

Leave it to Trent Reznor — one of the few musicians who doesn't need to hype his art by this point — to trump every other viral marketer with the promotional campaign for the new Nine Inch Nails album Year Zero. Besides leaking MP3s via USB drives left on bathroom floors, operatives from the NIN camp dreamed up a tangled series of Websites full of conspiracy theories and freakish multimedia to introduce fans to Reznor's vision of the year 2022: a cultural and political wasteland full of religious atrocities, mind-controlling drugs, catastrophic wars, and government corruption. With lyrics based on these conceits — and healthy doses of apocalyptic imagery and bitter vengeance thrown in for good measure — Zero's tone naturally leans toward the bleak and nihilistic. This is somewhat of a departure from his 2005 work, With Teeth, an album on which Reznor finally started questioning his demons instead of letting them control him. From a sonic perspective, this album is outstanding — especially the electronic elements, which largely take cues from chunky New Wave funkiness, like the song "Capital G," or the swampy trip-hop of "Me I'm Not." Better yet is the loopy pop track "God Given" — whose perforated beeps and industrial squelches sound like LCD Soundsystem covering Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" — and "The Great Destroyer," with the sounds of an Atari console going haywire and short-circuiting. At times, though, Reznor's heady lyrics get lost in all of this. As a consequence Zero is perhaps not as easy to relate to on a personal level as other NIN discs — although in light of the album's content and genesis, maybe the alienation and distance is purely intentional, just another part of Reznor's grand plan to conflate art and life.
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Annie Zaleski
Contact: Annie Zaleski