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Nine Inch Nails - The Slip

Self released, 5/5/08

One of the developing benefits of the 2.0 era seems to be the flourish of conceptual purity in pop art. Far from the only example, Trent Reznor is, however, one of the strongest. Reznorís real role as a victim of abuse -- financial, substance, critical -- isnít just reborn into this new era, itís embraced and, subsequently, revitalizing Reznorís output. Always marketed as a dark, subverted caricature, Reznorís recently prolific (and proliferated) incarnation of Nine Inch Nails funnels these real subversions into really good music. In this era, the star becomes the art.

The Slip, which is available for free on http://www.nin.com, is Reznorís most accessible slab of subversion since his last 1.0-era major label release, With Teeth. After With Teeth came Year Zero and the Ghosts 1-4 quadrangle, which played as polar opposites: a noise fest partially recorded on his tour bus and dozens of gorgeous instrumentals created as a large scale experiment among inspired friends. Considered together, these records (can we still call them that?) are like cartography for Reznorís brain. They show the artist not only embracing the impulsivity of the era, but carefully mapping the new territories.

Like a sculptor, Reznor knows to adapt, to make his rough edges smoother without sanding away the art. The single should stand out as an era-anthem: ďDiscipline" begins with Reznor coming in a measure early, then stopping, then correcting himself. This error is an admonition of the big-budget gloss-creation machines that Reznor has all but done away with. The rest of the song is top-notch, propulsive, catchy NIN dance-pop, every bit as significant as the comeback hits on With Teeth.

At the core of The Slip is provocative pop music. The songwriting is strong. The production values are tops. The band is tight. The lyrics are angry and mature. The moments the formula gets away from Reznor are easily forgotten amidst the vitality of the experiments. ďCorona RadiataĒ, the mostly-great piano-ballad tinkles on and on. There are a couple moments like this, where you canít wait to get to the next synthesizer intro. Itís like a dripping faucet that Reznor will probably fix for his next release, which could come as soon as tomorrow morning. Whatís important is the water coming out. We can always use more of that.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars