Okay, I’ve been biting my tongue on reviewing the new Nine Inch Nails track (Came Back Haunted), seeing as how if you can’t say anything nice…
I write in two very distinct ways, one being writing from the brain, where I utilize my entire lexicon, knowledge of musical theory, and production skills to make something slick. Then there are the times I write from the heart, using just a few easy but powerful chords, with the simple words of my soul pouring effortlessly into it. When I’m lucky, I find a balance between those, and make the track work from both directions. “Came Back Haunted”, the new track from Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails, achieves neither.
1. – The heart – This track sounds like B-movie actor reciting the words someone else put on a teleprompter, lacking the enthusiasm or motivation to put any convincing feeling behind it. Pretty Hate machine had some of the most visceral lyrics and primal screams of any album ever produced, and he continued that trend into The Downward Spiral. Perhaps being financially comfortable, happily married, and a reflection of the success he once cynically abhorred has made pretense of emotion more difficult as of late. Perhaps he is just flailing with futility to find words to connect him to his younger, angstier self. Either way, no matter the words, I just don’t believe him anymore.
2. The brain – The music is where he used to bring his imagination and intelligence to the fore, wrought with the experimentation of distorted tape loops, reversed percussion, and found noises, always pushing hard at the boundaries of what is defined as music, and pushing us further along as listeners in the process. He would mix up tempos, time signatures, and dynamics, like Mr Bungle given the reigns of the Boston Philharmonic. His music was impossible to predict, but never so far off course as to dislodge the listener. This track is none of that. This is the most blatantly straightforward beat I’ve heard since the era of glowsticks and pacifiers, with music that tries to badly emulate Bolero by just turning up each track over the interim. Color me unimpressed. It’s not painful to listen to, but it is also completely forgettable. There are many better things to do with 3 minutes, like call grandma, or brush them stanky teeth, or do a dozen sit-ups. It’s as if ennui and torpescence had a baby, and raised it on a diet of mediocrity. “Adequate” might be too strong a word.
He has an interesting thing going with How To Destroy Angels. It’s no NIN, but neither is NIN. It has it’s own identity, mood, and sound that is full of potential and better represents his strengths at this point in his life. He is best off putting his energies where they best fit, instead of clinging onto some scraps of teenage rebellion like a glued-on-toupee mohawk.
Maybe he just joined Rob Zombie in the “So let’s try to keep up with these young’uns, with their hula hoops, malt shops, and Lady Gaga” Convalescent Home for Stars That Can’t Let go.