Nine Inch Nails

Year Zero

For Year Zero, Nine Inch Nails chairman Trent Reznor sets his machinery on “kill” and points it toward authority and herd mentality, dicing up guitars and laptop synths like an Enron paper trail. After the raging overture “Hyperpower!,” the mood is set by “The Beginning Of The End,” where Reznor spells his agenda out for us. (“We face our consequence/This is the beginning of the end.”) “Capitol G” is the prequel to With Teeth’s “The Hand That Feeds,” refracting one particular politician’s success through his dullard supporters, alongside a jaunty beat. “The Greater Good” deceptively comes off as a chilled downtempo groove, but lines like “Welcome to your new point of view/We have disappeared right into you” could’ve come from the pens of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. Hell, even the instrumental piano respite (“Another Version Of The Truth”) comes off as fatalistic. Forget dancing, Reznor seems to be asking his fans: Whose slave do you want to be?

We live in a time when government officials are relieved of their accountability by an idiot constituency more concerned about Anna Nicole Smith’s corpse than the body bags coming in from the Middle East. At the end of the resigning hope(-ful/-less) “Zero-Sum,” Reznor intones, “Shame on us/Doomed from the start/May God have mercy/On our dirty little hearts.” Album of the year and beyond: All the way to Nov. 4, 2008.

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