For some long time fans of Trent Reznor, 2005’s
“With Teeth” came as something of a relief. It was a straightforward album – in
comparison to “The Fragile” – with no overbearing sense of its own importance.
The live shows that followed were among the best that NIN had delivered in
years. Then with the news that we weren’t gonna have to wait another decade for
a new album, it seemed that Reznor was undergoing something of a renaissance,
that we had entered a new golden age. “Year Zero”, the, will perplex the hell
out of many and for others it will simply be a disappointment.
Based around an Orwell by way of William Gibson
storyline set in the US in 2022, it is an angry reaction to
everything from the devastation of New Orleans to the war and the rise of
theocratic fascism in the land of the free to the impending environmental
meltdown. Naturally it’s not a barrel of laughs, but what’s a drag is that it
is so one-dimensional and grinding, so uniformly slow and downbeat. What it is
reminiscent of is Massive Attack’s miserable “mezzanine’ or Radiohead at their
most unlistenable, circa “Kid A”. Maybe that’s something that Reznor was aiming
for. Maybe it’s an album that Rent had to make for himself rather than one for
the rest of us.
Whatever, it’s a hard slog with none of the
rewards that perseverance on “The Fragile” delivered. It’s just depressing, and
not in a good way either.