“Hey, we have a new album out now… want it? Give us your email address and we’ll totally send it to you, if you want…”
Basically, since the end of September when Radiohead decided to put out their new album, free of charge (temporarily), a lot of bands have decided to follow in their footsteps and be the mixtape guy we all know who’ll totally burn you Band A’s new album if you want. Being that girl, I can relate to the psychology behind it easily enough: “I like this, and I think you would, too, so I’ll give it to you, if you want it.”
I got home from a long day today and checked one of my favorite places ever, The Leakage Channel, the website responsible for my copy of the Silver Jews album that isn’t out until July, the last Iron & Wine album three months early, and one of the best albums of the year so far, Narrow Stairs, the newest Death Cab for Cutie record. I log on to see something about Nine Inch Nails, so I click it, expecting a new song or something from Ghosts I-IV, the 1 hour 50 minute instrumental album that Nine Inch Nails put out earlier this year. But what do I find? Oh look it’s a new album!
When Radiohead decided to take the route of allowing fans to freely download their album, it’s all any review could talk about. Indeed, I expect, in the coming week, every review of The Slip (so this album is called) will mention the (originally) unconventional means of release, and probably mention Radiohead somehow. But what of the album, you may ask?
Nine Inch Nails has always been a band that’s near and dear to my heart, and thus it excited me to have a new album to drool over in my hot little hands (or, hot little laptop, as the case may be), and I currently sit listening to it my first time through, and I enjoy what I’m hearing a lot. Since their last (actual) album, Year Zero, I’ve felt that as Reznor has gotten on in years, he’s shaken the “fuck everyone!” mentality that has made him who he is.
Though Year Zero may have had this tone to it (being a concept album about a dystopian future, which NIN has always seemed to be the soundtrack to), he has become more focused with his rage. On this, The Slip, he seems to have shaken most of this as well, in favor of something more wonderful. Though it is undoubtedly a Nine Inch Nails record, Reznor has taken to being more organic: though still chaotic and tweaky, underneath this is a lot of beauty in how it feels as though the record is unfolding in front of you, slowly evolving and taking its very own path, which may or may not be the same the next time around.
The best example of this, on my first go through, is what feels to be the album’s centerpiece, an instrumental track called “Corona Radiata.” Starting off ambient, the song feels as though it’s growing: a guided tour of a drug trip, it’s hard to write about, because when listening to it, all I want to do is lay back in my chair, close my eyes, and feel it grow around me. Much of the last of The Slip feels like this. As said, it is undeniably a Nine Inch Nails album, but at times, it’s easy to forget exactly who Nine Inch Nails are, and why they are Nine Inch Nails.
Listening to this, it’s easy to forget that this is part of a genre called Industrial, for this very reason. When you listen, it doesn’t feel industrial at all, but it feels like a living, breathing entity, something much more splendorous than the sterility that may or may not come with the genre. Reznor has certainly not lost all of the heaviness that has become a staple of his music, but he now incorporates a very human element in, by seemingly allowing things to take their own path and not planning it out. It’s entirely fitting that, in the closing track, “Demon Seed,” Reznor sings, “I can feel it growing, and I can feel it breathe.” It feels as though he decided to simply let the production of the record stay fluid, and see how it would sound if he, instead of going from Point A to Point B, simply took a stroll and went where his feet (or his sound board) took him.
The Slip, during this first glance of the album, is undeniably very, very good. It’s hard to say how this album will be received by the community at large, but for me, I would be pleased if Reznor continued on this artistic path, and make music that feels as though it made itself, rather than doing everything himself. Since the release of Pretty Hate Machine, it’s been clear that Nine Inch Nails is not merely a band, but an artistic force that should not, under any circumstances, be stopped, and I don’t know about anybody else, but this (and his most recent efforts, namely Ghosts I-IV) is the proof I needed.