Nov. 08--Few metal bands turned anger and disillusionment into the kind of industrial-strength sound that Nine Inch Nails did in the 1990s and early 2000s.
From "Pretty Hate Machine" in 1989 to "The Downward Spiral" five years later, few were as commercially successful, too.
But times change, and so has the band's leader, singer, multi-instrumentalist and visionary, Trent Reznor, who has revived NIN after a four-year break with a new album, tour (which comes to the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 11) and mindset.
Nine Inch Nails performed a kind of musical exorcism on its albums and tours that tapped into the zeitgeist of the go-go, dot-com '90s. The band's albums have sold 11 million copies in the United States, and some of its songs became radio hits, including "Closer," "Head Like a Hole" and the haunting "Hurt," later interpreted by Johnny Cash a few years before his death.
But Reznor is now 48, married, the father of two young sons and an Academy Award-winner, having shared an Oscar with collaborator Atticus Ross for their score for David Fincher's "The Social Network."
In bringing NIN back, Reznor could have chosen to reflect his life now or try to re-create what he'd done as a younger, angrier man.
The New York Times said "Hesitation Marks," which is more danceable than past NIN music, "reveals its anxieties and longings more subtly than much of the Nine Inch Nails catalog."
"My incentive for making music was just a way to cathartically get this out," Reznor told the New York Times in a July interview. "Then I discovered, in the process of doing it, that some ugliness led to some element of beauty. And the process made me feel better. And then when I saw people responded to it and could relate to it -- I'm projecting here, but they may have felt less alone."
Reznor and Ross wrote the score for another of Fincher's movies, the American version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." He also formed a second band, How to Destroy Angels, with his wife, singer Mariqueen Maandig. They toured last spring as Reznor was creating the multilayered songs that would become "Hesitation Remarks."
"What I'm trying to do is be as pure as when I started," he told Rolling Stone recently. "In the process of writing those first songs, I realized that the only things I can do well is express who I am truthfully. That has the most power."
Being successful, working outside of his comfort zone, and being married with kids is bound to change a guy's view of the world, even a gloomy Gus like Reznor.
"I felt very aware that it's 20 years later, and I'm still that guy," he said in the New York Times interview. "I know that guy, and I feel for him. I don't resent him, I don't miss him. But how would things feel on the other side of that now, in a much more stable life place, mentally and physically, and with a new family?"
Jorge Vazquez, who runs UTEP's Special Events office, said Reznor is now in a position to expand upon the group's longtime audience by attracting new fans with the "Hesitation Marks" album and "Tension" tour.
"Nine Inch Nails is one of those bands that has evolved, and as they are growing older, and their audience is growing older and moving toward another part of life, it allows them to keep a lot of their fan base and also grab a new one, a young crowd, that will know what they did before," Vazquez said.
Reznor's certainly taking a new, and in many ways very different musical family on the road with him for NIN's "Tension" tour. One incarnation of the group played festivals over the summer, the band's first shows since 2009. But he's reconfigured the lineup, which includes NIN regulars Robin Finck on guitars, Alessandro Cortini on keyboards and guitars, and drummer Ilan Rubin, who first played with Reznor on the 2009 tour.
They're joined by guitarist Josh Eustis, who appears on "Hesitation Marks"; journeyman bassist Pino Pallodino, who has been part of the Who since John Entwistle's death; and two backup singers, Sharlotte Gibson and Lisa Fischer, the R&B singer and longtime Rolling Stones backup often featured on "Gimme Shelter."
The expanded version of the band appears designed to bring the new songs to life, while bringing fresh energy to the old ones. The stage show -- all 11 semi trucks and nine tour buses of it -- incorporates sensory overload visuals, including 3-D images.
"People will get what they're paying for, for sure, on this show," UTEP's Vazquez said, adding the "production is quite robust."
Critics seem to agree.
"Reznor seemed happy to be back and the band sounded tighter, louder and more aggressive than ever before," The Huffington Post said. "Like the 'Hesitation Marks' single says, they 'Came Back Haunted.' "
Read Pullen My Blog at elpasotimes.com/blogs.
What: Nine Inch Nails, with Explosions in the Sky.
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11.
Where: Don Haskins Center, UTEP.
How much: $35.50, $45.50, $69.50, $89.50, plus service charges, at the UTEP Ticket Center and through Ticketmaster outlets, ticketmaster.com and 800-745-3000.
Information: 747-5234, utepspecial events.com.
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