Trent Reznor dropped his poison pill into the pop water supply Monday when he offered the new Nine Inch Nails album as a free download, setting a new threshold in the ongoing breakdown of the record marketplace.
Did this form of delivery affect the nature of the music? “The Slip” will come out as a not-free CD in July, but it’s conceivable that the prospect of an unencumbered pre-release exchange with fans encouraged more daring choices in assembling the collection.
In any case, “The Slip” is murkier and less catchy than the last couple of regular NIN albums, “Year Zero” and “With Teeth.” On the rock numbers, Reznor blends the jarring sounds of the industrial rock genre that he popularized with a terse, punk-like attack, bringing an insistent, sometimes claustrophobic feel to his scenarios of alienation (“I feel a million miles away / I don’t feel anything at all”).
On the hushed, sad ballad “Lights in the Sky,” his voice drifts down into the dark waters he’s singing about, and he devotes time to instrumental studies in shape and texture, such as “Corona Radiata.”
Don’t be fooled by the relatively radio-friendly track “Discipline.” In “The Slip,” Reznor isn’t concerned with making it easy. But give it a try. What have you got to lose?