Monday, May 12, 2008

The Slip - Nine Inch Nails

The Slip

Nine Inch Nails

SCQ Rating: 58%

The first time I honestly asked myself if I could enjoy a Nine Inch Nails record was two months ago, when a friend let a wide array of recent NIN tracks blare from her stereo speakers. Largely representing With Teeth and Year Zero, the songs I heard were more electronic than hard rock, more melancholy than angry. And while she admitted that she had cherry-picked her favourites from the harsher material, it was the first time I actually thought about Nine Inch Nails since 1995. Ghosts I-IV was unveiled a week later and displayed an agreeable Eno/Reznor hybrid I nearly bought several times. No rest for the wicked, it seems, as Reznor has released yet another new album (his fourth release in a year’s time); this one entirely free and available now from his website. Now seemed like the best time to test-drive the NIN sound and perhaps The Slip is the right place to start.

With the first track’s minute and a half of computer buzzes barely touching our eardrums, The Slip shakes that early impression that this CD could be exactly what you paid for by breaking the door down on ‘1000000’, a live drum hammering against treated guitar chords while Reznor sneers “I don’t feel anything at all.” With his vocals tossed back and forth in the mix, calling out and answering back, the adrenaline level peaks early in a brainless but accessible blast of energy that prepares us for the next few tracks of teenage torment. Lead single ‘Discipline’ is particularly worth noting for its ability to please fans of alternative rock and club culture; its mix of aggressive guitar and dance beats makes this track perhaps their most important means of approaching a new fanbase this summer.

Much of this album feels unusually sedate compared to earlier releases; the crunch of their aggressive side is sporadically spread around ambient mood-pieces and laid back electro-rock grooves. ‘Echoplex’ is the best example of the latter, featuring a stuttered drum machine paced to a repetitive guitar rev that supplies the groundwork to The Slip’s atmospheric centerpiece. The ominous soundtrack of ‘Corona Radiata’ moves from sterile to industrial over its seven minutes, but is expertly placed as an addendum to the funereal piano of ‘Lights in the Sky’.

As both a marketing tool for his upcoming tour as well as rallying some new, frugal fans, The Slip is satisfying on a number of levels. Due to its no-strings, give-away release method, this feels spontaneous and unburdened by expectation. It’s neither contractually obligated to please anyone nor aiming to articulate a grand statement. Most importantly, The Slip is an easy album to listen to and enjoy; something that many NIN-deniers likely thought impossible. If SCQ is any indication, The Slip will successfully find that new audience.

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