Nine Inch Nails
May 5th 2008
The Null Corporation
“thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years – this one’s on me”
Following his self-released instrumental album Ghosts I-IV, Trent Reznor comes at us again, this time reaching out to fans registered at nin.com with an album free for download. The Slip is licensed under creative commons law, which encourages people to use material for any non-commercial purpose as long as the product remains available for creative commons use. It comes less than 3 months after Reznor’s instrumental opus and contains many of the same elements as the 36 track Ghosts set.
Where you stand on the argument of which NIN record is the greatest will largely determine your love or languishing of The Slip. If you are a fan of his goth-industrial, Skinny Puppy influenced early work, then this may be entirely too divergent and you may scoff at it saying, “Nails’ early work was way better.” Clearly Pretty Hate Machine and Broken/Fixed have their charm as groundbreakers. Who didn’t find happiness in slavery or god/money absolutely darling concepts?
The Downward Spiral codified Reznor’s place as a musical genius for the masses. Remember when people remarked after a particularly close listening of Closer, “Did you know that Trent Reznor was a classically trained pianist?” as if this somehow justified your purchase of the record without having any track marks. His place as a true Deus de Electronica came with his collaboration with David Bowie on Earthling and his seminal contribution to David Lynch’s Lost Highway soundtrack, Perfect Drug. Nine Inch Nails’ trajectory culminated in a 4 minute video in which Reznor dressed as a young Alister Crowley. The problem? Perfect Drug is Mr. Reznor’s least favorite thing he has ever done. He believed his path thus far had strayed, and change was in order. I’d have to disagree, but hey- dude’s got his opinion.
Years later, NIN released the indubitable double disc The Fragile. Some fans saw this record as a deviation from his earliest work, pussyfooting around the recording room. Rather than drive an intense electro-beat with raging guitars and vocals, many of the songs were caught up in the atmospherics. Lyrics became secondary, if they appeared at all. Jazz chords replete with syncopated dulcimers and xylophonic movements were sandwiched between chart-zingers like Star Fuckers Inc. Reznor’s work was drawn from more than just his cold black heart. He succeeded in sustaining his visionary status without caricaturing himself; a disappointment that he perhaps felt had occurred during his David Lynch experiment.
Then the 2000’s came complete with 8 years of George W. Bush. Big Brother never seemed so domineering. Reznor’s paranoia would never again get the opportunity to enter ears more receptive. With the rise of indie rock though, NIN had an uphill climb in order to remain relevant. We live in a post-rock era now. In some ways this released him from his obligation of showmanship. If NIN was to continue, it would not be by the grace of Marilyn Manson. Though With Teeth and Year Zero might not be his most defining work, they are certainly more mature and in sync with the state of affairs of rock and roll. His style, like that of Lou Reed and Bowie, seemed to morph without penalty. He set the terms and tone of his relevancy.
Reznor, confident in his ability to maintain an audience, released Ghosts I-IV containing 4 volumes, 2 discs, and 36 lyricless tracks. The album has a movie score like quality. With a record devoted solely to environment and subtlety, Reznor was free to commit to something like never before. With The Fragile, the commercial confines required that his instrumental endeavors be sparse. Now having left Universal, Nine Inch Nails could release a straight up art album with no to answer to but his audience. To our delight, he then released a follow up fewer than 3 months later.
The Slip is an aggressive project that assimilates some of the atmosphere of Ghosts I-IV. Typical of his post Fragile releases, the music is much more instrument oriented. Where his early work was composed of blips and distorted thuds of a synthesized and amplified typewriter, The Slip has is constructed of real snares sounds with recognizable guitar tones. Not to say that it doesn’t have its share of electronic beats, the synthesizer is certainly still employed, but any comparison with tracks prior to 1999 will illustrate the marked distinction in direction.
So it really comes down to your favorite chapter in NIN’s catalogue. The Slip is a great record that offers 10 new compositions to an ever increasing legacy. The best quality of this record the live is its studio feel. For all the fuzz and blown out noise it contains, the acoustics of the drums off the studio wall cut through, and Reznor’s vocals sound as if he is only across the room. The Slip is a very under produced album. It states Reznor’s appreciation for his listeners. The Slip is an invitation into the studio, unmitigated by highly compressed and modulated megabytes. Thanks dude…but Perfect Drug wasn’t that bad!
Pretty Hate Machine- 1989
The Downward Spiral- 1994
The Fragile- 1999
With Teeth- 2005
Year Zero- 2007
Ghosts I–IV- 200
The Slip- 2008