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Nine Inch Nails sets the clock back to ‘Year Zero’

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By Corinne Love

By Corinne Love

“Year Zero” is the only political party people will be able to dance to this year.

Nine Inch Nails’ auteur Trent Reznor’s sixteen track compilation of industrial-rock and synthesized hip-hop beats is one of Nine Inch Nails’ better releases.

“Year Zero’s” production was influenced by Public Enemy’s “Bomb Squad” as well as the album’s political themes and concepts.

Fans were drawn into the album’s dark concept by finding snipped mp3 files in bathroom stalls at Nine Inch Nails concerts worldwide and conspiracy latent sites like iamtryingtobelieve.com.

The snippets were the introduction to the album’s lead single, “Survivalism,” a staggering anthemia take on American conscious in the Iraq war.

The video for “Survivalism” was distributed through USB storage devices and features an apocalyptic city under the rule and oppression of surveillance.

“Year Zero,” a heavy-handed concept album, plays like an audio movie (there are plans to turn it into a film) and it includes everything a gritty political thriller would entail: a susceptible and highly confused protagonist (the listener), an unknown and shrewd antagonist (the American government) and sci-fi elements of paranoia.

Like an up-and-coming Christopher Nolan thriller, “Year Zero” takes on the political apathy growing within the Generation Y set.

“The Good Soldier,” with its hypnotic programming (the bulk of “Year Zero” was done on Reznor’s laptop), unravels to the listener, as Reznor sings “No one’s even sure/what we’re fighting for anymore.” Unlike previous Nine Inch Nails albums, Reznor does not write introspectively and it shows he has more ideas than the material allows for and it works.

On “Vessel,” the conspiracy theory is in full swing. Computerized blotches of noise confront bass lines and the result is a suggestive ode to the controversial drug Parepin, allegedly placed in cities’ water supplies and given to American soldiers in Iraq.

Google “parepin” and Nine Inch Nails-related Web sites will produce information on the drug.

Sometimes the paranoia and conspiracy are not as obscure; “Capital G” is an obvious dig at President Bush.

Old school hip-hop battles Nine Inch Nails’ trademark sound producing a clever, catchy tune, undermining the President’s positions on global warming, Hurricane Katrina (Reznor’s studio was destroyed in the disaster) and the disorder of the state that future generations will have to appease.

The appeasement won’t be easy, either. In “My Violent Heart,” an explosion of sound and static erupts as Reznor shouts “you can not stop us all.”

“Year Zero” does have its highs like the dance infectious “God Given” and the old-school NIN “Meet Your Master,” and its lows like the atmospheric “Another Version of the Truth” and “Me, I’m Not.” But the closeout track, “Zero-Sum,” clocks in at six minutes of electronics and death-march choir theatrics.

“Year Zero” paints a scary portrait of the future America, at times brilliant and at times utterly chaotic. Nine Inch Nails has profoundly captured the zeitgeist of a time period gone haywire.

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