So there’s a new Nine Inch Nails song called “Came Back Haunted” out, and it sounds like this:
I like the track but I don’t love it, and while I’m excited about the prospect of a new Nine Inch Nails album, I’m also slightly apprehensive. I know it borders on blasphemy to doubt the great Trent Reznor, but hear me out.
Up through 2009, when he put Nine Inch Nails on indefinite hiatus, every album that Reznor and NIN put out was brutally, unflinchingly honest, both in its subject matter and its musicianship. While some albums stood above the rest, there were no false pretenses in any of them; each album was Reznor pouring his heart and soul onto the tape, and the result was a tangible, palpable honesty. The same case can be made for his two soundtracks with Atticus Ross, The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; they were phenomenally minimalist, but they worked perfectly for the films for which they were composed (almost better, actually; as much as I enjoy both movies, I’d rather listen to the soundtracks then watch them). It felt as though Reznor had moved on to a new stage in his life, putting NIN behind him; the formation of new band How to Destroy Angels seemed to confirm that.
But now, four years after a farewell tour and two years after winning an Oscar for The Social Network soundtrack, Nine Inch Nails returns. Again, color me very excited. I grew up in the 90s, and the first time I heard “Closer” on my local alt-rock station, it was like nothing I’d ever heard. Even though I didn’t get really into NIN’s discography until college, when I did, I dove in deep, embracing the darkness and struggles that Reznor brought to stark, twisted life on each album. Looking back on some of the other bands I listened to in high school that are still around – Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains – it’s clear their latest albums, while not terrible, are a product of reaching back and trying to recapture something, as opposed to reaching forward to create something completely new. For whatever reason, I can’t help but feel that I would be exceptionally sad if Reznor and Nine Inch Nails fell into that same trap, especially after he branched out artistically in ways none of the other bands have. So here’s to remaining optimistic, but here’s a classic (and live!) NIN jam just in case.