Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nine Inch Nails - The Slip (2008)

3.5 ★/7.0 - 7.9

Despite the fact that Nine Inch Nails has ceased to be relevant in any musical sense, Trent Reznor's rampant support of the modern digitalization of music has kept his music thriving. From online alternate reality games, to releasing his albums for free on the web, one gets the sense that his attack on music industry commercialism has revitalized his efforts, and it shows both in the frequency with which he's released his last few albums (three in little more than a year), as well as their quality (Year Zero and Ghosts I-IV were probably his first great albums since The Downward Spiral). The Slip continues this trend, lacking the conceptual coherence that charged its predecessors, but making up for that with Trent's most concise collection of tracks since Pretty Hate Machine.

The album makes its two halves very distinct from one another. The first half contains all the usual industrial influenced, rage ridden dance-pop that Nine Inch Nails has made itself known for; in other words, 4 straight reprisals of "Bite The Hand That Feeds". Yes, the proto-industrial grind of "Head Down", high-octane energy of "1,000,000" and club-ready single, "Discipline", are all very entertaining. But one can't shake off the feeling that Trent watered down the striking Bomb-Squad-esque production of Year Zero leaving behind, artless angst-rock. A full album of this stuff would have been a disappointment. Thankfully, The Slip, makes a 180 degree turn on the remaining songs. The first track of the second half, "Lights in The Sky" blows away everything that came before it. Stripped down to its emotive core, Reznor's songwriting talent is finally given the treatment it deserves. No more pedestrian, overtly-distorted anger overflowing his composition; just Trent and a spacious piano, with haunting results. After a soothing ambient piece, two hypnotizing near-instrumentals with buzzing layers of synth-pads, de-tuned guitars and unsettling layers of noise function as even more evidence that Reznor should consider following through with a sequel to Ghosts I-V. Admittedly, the off-the-cuff nature of the album release makes it feel like it's not quite the proper sequel that's been promised by Year Zero, and if there's any other fault to be had, it's the same complaint that could be given against Trent's mid-career material - an unwillingness to move forward. But The Slip is still yet another brick in the ever-building wall of anticipation for Reznor. Only time will tell if he decides to follow through with these inspired tendencies or just linger in a point of transition, still fatally attached to his younger years of misplaced angst. What's definite, however, is that the past two years have marked a much stronger revival than the With Teeth years did.

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