"The Line begins to Blur" isn't an awful song, but Trent Reznor seems stuck in the Fragile mode of fine production but lazy songwriting. Let's sidestep the lyrics entirely-- they could either be gratingly banal or generic enough to shrug off, depending on your listening habits and mood. But even though he made industrial music accessible to a pop audience years ago, Reznor hasn't abandoned his dance-meets-metal formula; there's just less dance with every new outing. It's painfully apparent here: the verses are a raw industrial grind in which Reznor screams from the back of the mix like he might have something to say, but it melts into the softer side of Soundgarden with murky octave-strumming guitars and muffled piano in the chorus. Reznor sounds like he might be ready for a nap.
A complete reinvention probably isn't coming at this point, but without changing the formula, and with each long wait before the next record, Nine Inch Nails need a single to win listeners back, another "Closer" or "Down in it". When will someone whisper into Trent's tortured ear and tell him his best singles had a beat to them?
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