Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor Is the King of Reinvention
Who would have ever predicted that Trent Reznor would be the artist of his generation to age most gracefully? Absolutely no one, that's who.
Of course, the Reznor of yore was famously driven by his demons, fueled by addiction, and virtually burning to make artistic statements on a level that sought to make peers of his heroes at any cost. And while Reznor -- "Mr. Self-Destruct" incarnate -- eventually achieved that level of greatness, the process undoubtedly required some loss of self in one form or another.
The musician and composer has been rather open in the media over the years about the emotional and physical tariffs he once levied upon himself in his more volatile times. However, the "reformed" (though none-the-less vitriolic) and recovered Trent Reznor of present -- now almost 50 -- is setting a new precedent for how a bona fide rock star raised in outsider art can continue to grow and create in a relevant way.
Still defiant, Reznor returned to Nine Inch Nails with Hesitation Marks. He created an album that almost feels built to spite the faction of hypercritical fans who still lust for another Pretty Hate Machine. In fact, the greatest obstacle Reznor has faced since rebooting the Nine Inch Nails' name has been finding a way to confront the reverence people hold for his legacy -- built on the backs of barbed and jagged masterpieces -- while introducing fresh and drastically different-sounding fare.
When I reviewed the South Florida date of Nine Inch Nails' Tension Tour in 2013, it was without question the best show I had seen the entire year. The night still lingers in my memory as one of the most enthralling performances I have ever taken in. The impact was enough to change the very way I perceive and approach Reznor and his music.
Tension's production aesthetic was virtually infallible. Every song was accompanied by ethereal, dynamic environments and accented with visuals that ebbed, flowed, and coalesced seamlessly with the music. At times, the stage appeared a vision ripped from the pages of science fiction, though it never remained in one particular way for too long. The performances given by Reznor and the world-class team of sonic athletes he painstakingly assembled to breathe fire into his music were downright inspirational. However, the most remarkable thing about the show was how well it brought cohesion to the favored ghosts of Nine Inch Nails' past and the fresh blood of Hesitation Marks.
Admittedly, I went into the show not entirely sold on Hesitation Marks. The album was received with mixed reviews by the music press, and older fans in my own circle of friends seemed to unanimously hate it. Some went so far as to proclaim it a proper death knell for the Misfit King we once knew. The album was still quite new at the time.