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NINE INCH NAILS - 'The Slip'   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Tuesday, 06 May 2008

Having finally kicked the drugs, Trent Reznor is clearly making up for lost time. “The Slip”, his second album in as many months (and his eighth full length recording in the past three years - four albums, a remix set, a concert set, and two album length recordings for other artists), is clearly the work of a man driven.

Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s finally seen the end of a carefully managed, famine-like major label contract that rewarded mass exploitation and touring instead of creativity, and managed to recast himself as a modern-day Prince : wresting control of his destiny as a self-sufficient entity.

Last month, he released “Ghosts” - a 36 track, two hour instrumental epic experiment : this month he’s followed it with “The Slip”, a succinct 44 minute album fired by the kind of creativity and prolificitivty that recalls the glory days of the Sixties, where a new record by either The Who or The Stones or The Beatles would come out every few weeks. Bluntly put, it’s not too much from a man who used to release a record every five years if we were lucky.

And so, “The Slip” is the seventh Nine Inch Nails album (or the fourteenth, including reissues, remix, and concert sets). And what you want to know is… is it any good? 

In a word - yes. It’s perhaps not quite as good as previous Nine Inch Nails records, but with a bar set so high previously, few, if any could match it. What “The Slip” is the sound of a man reborn, shaming lesser artists with his work-rate and creativity.

Firstly, lets highlight a few key points. Unlike previous Nine Inch Nails albums, which saw Reznor as a one man dictator of the group and performing every instrument with a paranoid despotism, “The Slip” is the first work of a band lineup of Nine Inch Nails : albeit, one where every song is written by Reznor, but one where other musicians are credited as performers, not mere contributors. It’s shorter in length than any Nine Inch Nails album previous, and in many ways scanter. Thematically, the record eschews the usual Nine Inch Nails concept to collect nothing less - and nothing more - than ten new songs.  If anything, “The Slip” is reminiscent of Bowies classic Berlin trilogy ; six vocal songs book ended by four instrumentals that all evoke an emotional resonance., aided and abetted by a perfectly chosen selection of musicians, including the unrecognised genius that is Guns’N’Roses guitarist Robin Finck.

It’s not just the release schedule that is evocative of a lost age : “The Slip” is constructed to easily remind the owner of a vinyl LP : there’s a distinct break between track 5 and 6 stylistically that reminds me of getting up, flipping the disc over, and dropping the needle onto side two. And, as the record drifts to the traditional low point of the last quarter, the album evolves slowly to a series of barely whispered vocals in “Lights In The Sky“, before unfolding with “Corona Radiata” to evaporate to the ether with a  strong set of instrumental passages that fiercely rebuke the old-standing ‘side two’ lag of a vinyl Lp where you could hear a hardworking but creatively constipated band squeezing out songs with an eye for a fast-approaching release date. This is not contractual obligation but the work of someone who wants to, not someone who has to.

The songs here are subtle evolutions from the longstanding Nine Inch Nails template : songs aren’t thought-out to the gazillionth permutation but products of an organic spring of inspiration. There are drawbacks  - notably, single “Discipline” features a vocal mistakenly introduced (and hastily silenced) a bar too early due to a rushed mix, and the tracks fade-out is spliced too early : an inevitable result of a quick workrate. Lyrically, the album is a sparser, less complex affair than any previous Nine Inch Nails record, relying on a lyrical repetition that reveals multiple interpretations, on short and relatively straightforward imagery, on vocal melodies that are tonally short and instantly memorable at the same time : in many ways, “The Slip” is the nearest Nine Inch Nails have yet come to evoking the spirit of The Ramones with a guerilla record-and-release ethic and songs that seem to have been born fully formed.

There are certainly some classic NIN moments here : the dense production  and organic sounds match the maelstrom of anything in their previous body of work, most notably in instant classics “Discipline” and “Echoplex”, and many high points. “The Slip” sounds like the work of a profilic man mining a deep seam of rich creativity and still coming up with the goods.

 

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