Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

30 08 2013

Opener The Eater of Dreams is a slow building, electronic heart beat monitor intro to the most electronic album in NIN’s eight album discography.

“I am just an echo, of an echo, of an echo…”

Nine Inch Nails "Hesitation Marks"

Copy of A gives a good taste of what lies in store – it’s an incessantly catchy track, with nagging, buzzing synths laid over a tightly tuned Blue Monday’esque drum machine.

Came Back Haunted features dark synth-lines, and a great classic NIN guitar riff halfway through the song. But you already know this, as the song has been available for over a month now.

The presence of Alan Moulder on the production side is telling with the sound of this album. Moulder  worked with Curve in the 90s, and there are some hints of the way Curve used dark electronics cut with brutal guitars on Hesitation Marks.

“Everywhere now reminding me… I am not who I used to be”

Whilst Hesitation Marks musically is a very different beast to the Nine Inch Nails of The Downward Spiral or The Fragile, lyrically its still visceral and although there are more synths than guitars, the music is still hard-hitting and atmospheric. The delivery may have changed, but there is no dumbing down or compromise on display here.

Find My Way is an early album favourite, with simple piano lines, Twin Peak’s guitar and a great Reznor vocal. Sometime’s less is more, and Find My Way is a very powerful song, different to anything I have heard from NIN before.

“Ghost’s of who we used to be. I can feel them come for me.”

All Time Low is driven by a very Talking Head’s like riff. I wonder if this is one of the tracks featuring Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham? I won’t know till I receive the cd on release day (this review is from the NIN website stream, so no album credits are available yet). A fairytale like synth motif bubbles away in the background as Reznor sings “We’re never gonna die, how did we get so high?”. A clever touch.

Disappointed will not leave you feeling so. Some lovely, subtle guitar playing in the background of the verses. One of the strengths of Hesitation Marks that is immediately apparent is that the tracks have layers that reveal themselves on repeated listening sessions. The last couple of minutes of Disappointed are a case in point – soaring guitars and keyboards, underpinned by nagging sequencers, drop quickly to reveal the lightly percussive melody and crisp drums. It’s like getting halfway through a really enjoyable meal and then bang, a new flavour hits your palate. And I do like a good meal!

Everything is almost NIN goes late 70s powerpop – NIN do The Knack! The heaviest and most uptempo track on the album, it’s short, sharp and to the point. It’s also the perfect length for a classic single, at 3.19.

Copyright Nine Inch Nails

Satellite and Various Methods of Escape have a mid-80s Peter Gabriel feel to the music (yes, I really did just write that), with the latter track having a very strong, addictive chorus that counteracts the world weary lyrics.

Another reference to the 1980s is the appearance of bassist Pino Palladino on the album. I can’t hear any Wherever I lay My Hat type basslines here, but his touring with The Who (or his Tears For Fears work) was probably more of a reference point for his inclusion by Reznor.

The outro to Running, if included on a previous NIN album, would be awash with heavy wall-of-sound guitars, whereas the 2013 Reznor has a singular guitar line, backed by scraping keys and insistent beats.

The scent of Bowie can also be found on Hesitation Marks. I Would for You would not have sounded out of place on Bowie’s Earthling (and we know Reznor loves I’m Afraid of Americans from that album).

In Two is another album highlight – with shades of the breakdown in March of the Pigs, though the rest of the song bears no resemblance to The Downward Spiral track. I think In Two may contain one of the Lindsey Buckingham appearances, it certainly sounds like his playing in the background as the song builds to it’s (very) abrupt climax.

While I’m Still Here brings the album full circle, back to the electronica of the opening salvo, although at a slower pace. I love the keyboard work in this track, and the sax riff at the end. Sax on a NIN album? Heresy. It seems as if the experience of the soundtrack work with Atticus Ross is being utilised to give the band more colours to choose from, which can only be a positive thing.

“Yesterday I found out the world was ending.”

Album closer Black Noise is an instrumental continuation of the previous track, and presumably is a play-on-words on white noise, with the album ending in an explosion of sound.

Hesitation Marks has the potential to become my favourite NIN album. It lacks the rage of early albums, but what is the point of repeating what’s gone before? There is so much depth revealed on repeated listening, and I think over time this will surpass Year Zero for me. One of the best releases of 2013, I certainly think so.

Order Hesitation Marks (Deluxe Edition) from Amazon UK

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours [35th Anniversary 3CD Deluxe Edition]

2 02 2013

Fleetwood Mac - RumoursAn album I’ve previously bought on vinyl, cassette and CD, and now a 3 CD deluxe edition. So it’s clearly an album I like, along with over 40 million purchasers of this album!

Disc one of the 3CD Deluxe Edition is the remastered version of the original album, including extra B-side track Silver Springs. This remaster is the 2004 one, which did not need improving.

Dreams is one of my favourite songs, I never tire of hearing this track. Unless it’s the version by The Corrs, who just lobbed a shed-load of flutes and an Everything But The Girl Missing beat over the top. Avoid.

Sorry about that – back to Fleetwood Mac. If you don’t own Rumours, and are a casual fan, the single disc version will be enough for you. If you are a die-hard fan, for a few pounds more, the 3-disc edition is the definitive version.

Rumours, originally released in February 1977, was a staple of FM radio in the late 70s, and you will be surprised at how many of these songs you know if you grew up in that golden era.

You Make Loving Fun is sprinkled with lovely harmonies, and driven by chunky rhythm guitar and crystal clear solos by Lindsey Buckingham.

Fans of Formula One racing on the BBC in the late 70s / 80s will recognise the iconic bass line towards the end of The Chain, one of the album’s strongest songs.

The remaster brings elements to the fore that I had missed on earlier incarnations, such as the highly percussive multi-layered guitar, and intricate harmonies (? underpinned by accordion) on Never Going Back Again.

This edition of the album ends with Silver Springs, which was originally the b-side to Go Your Own Way.

Disc 2 is a live collection, recorded during the 1977 Rumours tour in Oklahoma, Tulsa, Nashville and Columbia. Several non-Rumours tracks feature, the highlight being Rhiannon clocking in at nearly 8 minutes.

Another longer-than-the-album take is Gold Dust Woman, with its wonderful Rhodes v chorused guitar intro. The live Go Your Own Way has a great new-wave guitar intro, and the live disc ends with Christine Mcvie’s Songbird.

Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" 3-CD Deluxe Edition

Disc three is made of up alternative versions, demos and out-takes from the sessions. These tracks often contain tape hiss, sparse instrumentation, in-song chatter and are no way near the fidelity of the studio album. However, what they lack in audio quality they certainly make up for by offering a peek into the creative process.

My favourite is Dreams (take 2) – built around electric piano and rough guitar, the backing music sounds nothing like the album version, but the vocal melody is intact, and it’s a moving performance by Stevie Nicks.

Never Going Back Again [Acoustic Duet] is more fully formed than some of the tracks on disc three. Keep Me There [With Vocal] is interesting, as it includes the famous outro (a shortened version) that was later added to The Chain.

Fleetwood Mac

Silver Springs [Early Take] contains another fine Nicks vocal, and an echo laden backing track that differs enough from the finished version to make it an intriguing listen.

Planets Of The Universe [Demo] is a piano and vocals version of the track that later appeared on the Stevie Nicks Trouble in Shangri-La album. The lyrics are very raw and direct, and I prefer this version to the Trouble in Shangri-La studio version that was released in 2001.

I’m glad I bought this new version of Rumours – and I’m now embarking on a Big Mac of the Fleetwood variety binge. I’ve ordered the expanded Tusk re-issue and 25 Years – The Chain 4-CD compilation.

Buy Rumours [35th Anniversary Edition] – 3CD Deluxe Edition from Amazon

Buy Rumours [35th Anniversary Edition] – single disc edition from Amazon

Watch a live version of Dreams from 1977:

%d bloggers like this: