NIN’s Systematic Chaos
For those who might have been planning to download the new Nine Inch Nails album illegally, there’s no need. Always state of the art and never outdone, NIN is back with The Slip, an entire album available for download free at http://theslip.nin.com/. Don’t worry, people who still crave the passe physical CD will be able to buy one in stores in July. No longer bound to a record label, NIN mastermind Trent Reznor seems to be exuberant about finally being free of the legal battles and debates that plagued his relationship with them. This freedom definitely translates to the music. That’s not to say that The Slip sounds happy, because that would almost be an insult to the infamously dark Reznor, but the music has an uninhibited feel to it.
For a band that used to take 5 years between albums NIN has been extremely prolific the last few years, first releasing With Teeth in ’05, Year Zero in ’07 and Ghosts I-IV in March of ’08. All of these releases since ’99’s The Fragile feel like a continuation of each other musically, this new direction being more straightforward and danceable than NIN’s previous work. Ghosts however was the first sign of this truly uninhibited quality, with its ambient sounds and lack of vocals. It was also Reznor’s first foray into the world of self release and free downloads. The Slip continues in the same spastic, raw edged vein as Ghosts but combines it with the catchy song structure of albums like Year Zero. It is stripped down and mechanized with hooky drum machine beats, quick, strummy guitars, and Reznor’s almost placid vocals.
Some highlights are “Head Down” with its angry guitar strum and melodic chorus and “Echoplex” with its clean, modern rock-style guitars and head bobbing dance beat. “1,000,000’s” metal edge cuts like a hot knife with super fuzzy guitars, catchy tune and starkly recorded back-beat similar to the one used in ’94’s “March of the Pigs,” demonstrating a sharper edge that might even please some of the skeptical older fans who favored the Pre-With Teeth NIN. Lyrically, Reznor’s introspective pessimism is firmly intact with the refrain “I don’t feel anything at all” sung as a catchy hook. The one gut-wrenching ballad “Lights in the Sky” stands out with its funeral dirge piano and quivering vocals. ‘The Four of Us Are Dying’ has a retro Pretty Hate Machine era sound to it with an almost cheesy drum machine, creeping melody and groovy bass line, and is the one song on The Slip without vocals. The album concludes with “Demon Seed” a final example of Reznor’s danceable angst with its schizophrenic drum loops.
Not only is The Slip a milestone for NIN musically, it is a milestone for NIN business-wise. There is no doubt that it will go down in history for both reasons. Reznor, along with artists like Radiohead, is helping to put the power back into the hands of artists and consumers rather than large corporations. The Slip is well worth downloading because it’s a great album, not just because it’s free, then help support NIN by going to their concert and buying a t-shirt because that can’t be downloaded legally or illegally.