Review: Nine Inch Nails, The Slip

Nine Inch Nails
The Slip
Release date: 5/5/08

The pun is difficult to resist: The Slip is the second Nine Inch Nails album to arrive with free download availability, and the slip is what Trent Reznor has given to corporate parties who stand to profit from his music or the legal regulation of it.

“This one’s on me,” writes Reznor on the NIN Web site under the download link. The record’s release was cryptically alluded to in a post to the band’s Web site on April 21 and in the metadata of two mp3 singles, “Discipline” and “Echoplex,” released on April 22 and May 2, respectively.

Unlike the recent Ghosts I-IV, The Slip features lyrics on seven of its ten tracks. Veteran NIN members Josh Freese, Robin Finck and Alessandro Cortini return the band to a harder electro-industrial sound akin to Year Zero (2007) and With Teeth (2005).

The lyrics find Reznor waxing introspectively moreso than on the political Zero; in “Discipline,” he sings, “feels like I’m losing touch, nothing matters to me…see you left a mark up and down my skin…I don’t know where I end and where you begin.” Such nihilistic fodder is food for the angst-ridden teenage soul, and young devotees (as well as those who simply won’t grow up) will likely devour the melancholy content.

As a middle-aged chronicler of emotional affliction, Reznor succeeds in expressing with pointed sparseness any poetry that he can bleed from negative feelings. It’s a path he’s trodden so many times that the gimmick almost wears thin; then again, listeners seeking more experimental territory have only to consult Ghosts I-IV. Or they can remix the songs to their hearts’ content using the multi-track files, which are also available for downloading via the NIN website.

Nineteen years after Pretty Hate Machine, the actual music produced by NIN is less groundbreaking than the means by which it’s distributed. Reznor’s debatable genius lies in the symbiotic artist-fanbase relationship he uses to promote his music and to challenge the restrictions of an industry with which he is constantly at odds: in effect, the ultimate rebellion. – Linda Leseman

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