Excepting remix albums and occasionally bewildering collaborations with lesser talents, Trent Reznor has never really put a foot significantly wrong to these ears, so I hoisted an excited eyebrow upon learning that he had not after all hung up his Nine Inch Nails costume for good. How To Destroy Angels had a lot going for them, but like supermarket's own brand cola, they just weren't quite the same. Fascinatingly enough, Hesitation Marks sounds very much a logical successor to Welcome Oblivion, particularly in its use of glitchy fragments of noise and pre-digital drum machine sounds resulting in something that could almost have come out in 1982 were it not quite so tidy.
I've always found this group - and I'm calling it a group for the sake of argument - more or less unique, and so much so as to make all those others with whom they are so often associated redundant. Listening to - for example - Ministry when you could have The Downward Spiral or With Teeth seems like choosing Green Day over the Sex Pistols, or Green Day over any group who aren't shite for that matter. Others may make similar moves with overdriven guitars, samplers and grunting noises, and it's certainly true that Reznor's songwriting is about as purple as it gets - not quite nobody understands me and it's not fair but not far short - and yet the way he puts it all together is genuinely inspired; although it's probably something fairly simple, a basic combination of imagination and actually meaning it, qualities I've never found conspicuously abundant on all of those Al Jourgensen records about being a bad boy who likes the devil and wants to do a poo on Jesus. Anyway, whatever is going on, Reznor still makes the rest sound like gurning industrial clowns; and still manages to turn out a record which could only be a Nine Inch Nails album without necessarily sounding like any of the previous seven - harrowing but catchy as some guy described them in Rolling Stone.
To narrow all that down to a single sentence, Hesitation Marks is the bestest best thing ever. It really makes me wonder why any of the others bother.