You used to be able to rely on Trent Reznor to come up with a new Nine Inch Nails set every three or four years. Recently, though, releases have been coming at an almost Pete Namlook rate. The latest, hot on the heels of the Ghosts I-IV collection of instrumentals, is called The Slip. And it’s free.
Strangely, I found out about it the same day I read an article about the new phenomenon of ‘Freeconomics’ in the Guardian which included an interview with Chris Anderson, an American writer and economist who coined the term. Without wanting to sound like the old git in the corner of the pub, I’m of the generation who had the “no such thing as a free lunch” mantra shoved into our heads. Indeed, the things that had been free – like health, education etc – were gradually being stripped away by two and a half decades of Thatcherism (both in its original, virulent form, and its New Labour mutation). So it seems weird getting free stuff like this, even if we don’t give it a second thought that things like Google, Wikipedia etc etc are all free to use (I’m even writing this using the OpenOffice.org writer, a freeware counterpart to MS Word!). Still, it seems somehow wrong to have a fully fledged LP for absolutely zip.
The next preconception was that The Slip would just be a ragbag collection of cast-offs – B sides in an era where the B side is effectively a dead art form. This is clearly not the case either. This is a fully realised album, one of Nine Inch Nails’ best.
After the semi-ambient intro of “999,999”, things take off with a series of tunes that have the trademark synthesised industrial muscle with a hint of pop sensibility generally associated with Reznor. It’s good stuff, particularly the scuzzy “Head Down”. Then things take a sharp left turn from track seven. “Lights in the Sky” is a delicate piano ballad which leads straight into the neo-ambient drone-rock instrumental “Corona Radiata”, a brilliant piece. “The Four of Us Are Dying” is even better – a series of guitar loops over a simple Kraftwerkian beat that build into something quite menacing, and best played damned loud (although it does feel a bit unresolved when it ends). “Demon Seed” is a bit of an anticlimactic closer. It’s no more than an efficient album filler, really. Even so, The Slip is a fine record. Instructions on how to download a copy can be found on the website. I don’t suppose it will be there for ever so you’d best be sharp!
3 Letting You
6 Head Down
7 Lights in the Sky
8 Corona Radiata
9 The Four of Us are Dying
10 Demon Seed