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Nine Inch Nails [reviews]
The Slip |The Null Corporation, 2008, {halo 27}|
Audio content: 1. 999,999, 2.1,000,000, 3. Letting You, 4. Discipline, 5. Echoplex, 6. Head Down, 7. Lights In The Sky, 8. Corona Radiata, 9. The Four of Us Are Dying, 10. Demon Seed

Video content: 1. 1,000,000, 2. Letting You, 3. Discipline, 4. Echoplex, 5. Head Down

I am one of those old school Nine Inch Nails fans, you know, the kind that is used to waiting 4-5 years between albums. Thus, I am still trying to get used to the fact that Trent Reznor is on a creative explosion, releasing 4 albums since 2005. I am still digesting the four-course meal that is Ghosts, so the release of The Slip caught me a bit off guard. Because I've been disappointed with some of the newer NIN material I decided to approach listening to this album without any expectations. I found, once I let go of my preconceptions of what a NIN album "should" be, I was pleasantly surprised!

The Slip is at its core a pop album, with hooky melodies and driving rock riffs interlaced with that signature NIN ear candy. This is a guitar driven album and the big studio sound has been toned down in favor of a more lo-fi approach. It took me a few listens to get the sound of the record, but I've come to really enjoy the production aesthetic and the tunes themselves. Reznor has achieved a beautiful dissonance in many of the guitar and synthlines on the album. It does take the ears a little getting used to, but hey, I like the kind of music you have to dig a little deeper for.
Standout tracks for me are "Letting You", "Echoplex", "Head Down", "1,000,000" and my favorite "Demon Seed". The instrumental track "The Four of Us are Dying" is also one of the best tracks on the record. It's infectious bass groove and sweet guitar lines are a hypnotic listen and also a nice intermission from the intensity of the heavier songs.

The vocal content overall is very tasteful and Trent's skills writing melodic hooks are on display. Even the vocal lines I would normally find cheesy ("Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah," and "La, la, la, la" anyone?) seem to fit into place with the pseudo-pop sound of the record.
There are a few songs I am not particularly fond of but I can still appreciate the fact they are interesting, well written tracks. "Discipline", for example, feels like a lesser version of older NIN material but it's phat, disco-like feel and melodic chorus will appeal to many listeners, especially those that like to dance. "Lights In The Sky" is another track I frequently skip, though it has its own place in the ebb and flow of the album and the piano chords are definitely well written.

The Slip is available as a free download directly from nin.com, but being a fan of the traditional album, I picked up a copy of the physical CD from my local record shop. The artwork is slick, each copy is individually numbered (190,627/250,000, in case you were wondering) and the stickers, lyrics/liner notes and a DVD of rehearsal footage from the current tour make the album a complete package. Watching the band performing the tracks is engaging and their live setup is total gear porn for the tech heads (see Josh Freese's drum machine on "Echoplex"). Although the rehearsal footage can be found online it is nice to have the performances on DVD to fully appreciate the visuals and tight sound mix.

It is also of note that the record was released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. Basically, this means that people can legally share it, remix it or put it on their podcast without fear of legal repercussions. This is a pretty progressive way to release and license music, and it is interesting to see Reznor continue to be on the cutting edge.

Overall, The Slip is a strong piece of work. It is by no means the best NIN album but certainly is a welcome addition to my music collection. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for the sound of one of my favorite bands. If there is one thing I've come to learn about Nine Inch Nails in the past few years it is to expect the unexpected. (James Chapple)

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