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Reznor v. Cornell: The fight of 1996

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Putting the "twit" in Twitter-- Reznor takes a pot shot at poor, defenseless Chris Cornell.

Is this the start of Reznor's post-retirement career as an Andy Rooney-esque gadfly? With NIN's future still uncertain, Reznor seems to have enough time on his hands to call out Chris Cornell on his upcoming album Scream, produced by Timbaland and featuring enough clubby crooning to make Kanye West reach for his copyright infringement manual.

Reznor claims the album is so embarrassing that he himself felt embarrassed by proxy. Granted-- the initial samplings from Scream simply beg for a firestorm. In the debut video (which, ominously and regrettably, has embedding disabled), Cornell, looking like an even more leathered Johnny Depp (if such a thing is possible), plaintively occupies such well-worn locales as a top-down Cadillac on the cruise and a motel room, singing out his angst while a shrewish supermodel berates him for indiscretions unknown.

The music is pretty quixotic stuff. Daring, to say the least. But it's really a double-dog dare-- a seeming sucker bet, like touching your tongue to a frosted light pole, that only proves a party's willingness to take a foolish risk. It's all oozy synths, blanched by faux string arrangements, and blippy sub bass pops.

But come on Reznor-- we all remember your mercurial days as a heady, embittered gothic God, were you called out Marilyn Manson and Monica Lewinski in the same whisky-scented breath. You seem to have turned such a corner of late-- your magnanimity on tour, you generosity with your own music... We were kind of exepcting, you know, a softer, gentler Reznor.

Whether he's right or wrong (hint: he's right), Reznor's attack does seem a little wanton. Deposed as frontman from Audioslave, and with Soundgarden but a fading memory, Cornell receives the blow with his hands in his pockets and his head turned (Cornell has yet to respond via Twitter).

Gimme Noise certainly isn't above a sucker punch. But taking a swing at this new album seems rather like sucker punching a man in his pajamas, and that's just uncalled for. Reznor's taken his own share of stupid risks (Year Zero anyone?). Why begrudge Cornell the same misspent liberties?