Nine Inch Nails

Year Zero

Leave it to Trent Reznor — one of the few musicians who probably doesn't need to hype his art by this point — to trump every other viral marketer with the Internet-heavy promotional campaign for Year Zero. (It's a concept record; think the Big-Brother-is-controlling mentality of George Orwell's 1984 combined with the drugged-out society of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.) Zero's tone leans toward the bleak and nihilistic, thanks to lyrics obsessed with apocalyptic imagery and bitter vengeance. But this time Reznor channels his ire to outsiders — namely the government and its clueless leaders (gee, wonder who the song “Capital G” is about?) and other zealots — instead of himself. The music on Zero further mirrors this urgency. Raw, brazen metallic aggression matches jagged electronic elements, which take cues from chunky new-wave funkiness and swampy trip-hop — although the loopy pop track “God Given” sounds like LCD Soundsystem covering Justin Timberlake's “SexyBack.” Year Zero stands on its own as an artistic achievement apart from its mythology. The gnarled disc isn't as easy to relate to on a personal or emotional level as other NIN discs, but in light of the album's calculated content and genesis, maybe this alienation and distance is purely intentional.

 
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