CD Review of The Slip by Nine Inch Nails
Recommended if you like
Marilyn Manson, Ministry, Free Stuff
Label
The Null Corporation
Nine Inch Nails: The Slip

Reviewed by James B. Eldred

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O
n May 2nd, Trent Reznor struck again, releasing The Slip, an entirely new album, on his website for free. Since leaving Interscope last year, the mastermind behind Nine Inch Nails has been teasing his fans with something like this. First there was the Reznor-produced Saul Williams album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust, which was available as low-quality MP3s for free or in CD-quality form for five bucks. Then, just a few months ago, he released Ghosts I-IV through his website on a variety of formats, the cheapest of which being a five-dollar download. Some thought the release of the all-instrumental album was really just a test for a “real” NIN album They were right, although most people probably didn’t think he’d be giving away the whole thing for free.

While Ghosts I-IV was a trip through ambient, industrial and nearly every other form of electronic music, The Slip is a much more traditional NIN album. It’s basically With Teeth part two, in that it’s a bunch of songs with no real theme tying them together – other than Trent’s usual angst, despair and general anger towards the outside world.

The lack of a theme doesn’t mean the album lacks consistency or flow, though (something that With Teeth definitely lacked). In fact, the second half of the album is a suite of sorts. As the beautiful and haunting “”Lights in the Sky” segues into “Corona Radiata,” which in turn transitions to “The Four of Us Are Dying,” a creepy track that is the last respite of relief until all-out carnage breaks free again with the ultra-aggressive closer, “Demon Seed.”

As interesting and complex as the second half of The Slip is, most listeners will probably focus on the strong first six songs of the album. “Discipline” is an excellent industrial-dance track that would fit on any ‘80s mixtape between Killing Joke and Nitzer Ebb. It’s kind of a throwback to Reznor’s Pretty Hate Machine days and should drive the remixers crazy with delight at the potential (in addition to releasing the album for free, Reznor also gave away the raw audio, so anyone can create their own remixes). “1,000,000” and “Letting Go” are classic Nine Inch Nails, thrashing guitars, a billion distortion effects and countless unidentifiable sounds all mixed behind Trent’s acidic voice.

If there’s any problem with The Slip, it’s that it’s a bit too by-the-numbers and predictable. “Echoplex” and “Head Down” are good, but the NIN detractors aren’t going to listen to them (or any other song on The Slip, for that matter) and be convinced that he hasn’t been recording the same album over and over again since 1996.

Reznor probably has all the artistic and financial freedom he’s ever dreamed of and more. It would be nice if he would use that freedom to experiment a bit more with his sound, which he really hasn’t fussed with since The Downward Spiral. You’ve got the time, the money and the built-in fanbase, Trent – why not go nuts and release a synth-pop record, go crazy with drum and bass, or just say screw it all and do an album of piano ballads?

But even though it’s more than a little bit predictable, The Slip is a pleasant surprise, and despite its lack of originality, he’s obviously not slumming it. In his message to his fans on the release of The Slip, he thanked them for their years of support, and it looks like he actually meant it. If you’ve liked any Nine Inch Nails record in the past, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re going to enjoy The Slip. And even if you haven’t, you might as well give it a shot – it is free, after all.

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