Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Best of 2008

Song: 1,000,000
Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Album: The Slip

I used to be a HUGE Nine Inch Nails head. Starting with the EP “Broken” from 1992, I fell in love with Trent Reznor’s brand of techno-goth rock music that was equal parts nihilistic, cathartic, and also… dancy. After digging “Broken” I got the debut album “Pretty Hate Machine” which was more pop and more dance-industrial oriented. I wasn’t sure it could get any better, and then he released “The Downward Spiral,” which sent him into the musical stratosphere.

Unfortunately, the good fortune in record buying seemed to cripple Reznor, or it could be argued… freed him. Because next came 1999’s “The Fragile,” a double-disc set that let the only sprinkled slow, ambient instrumentals from “Spiral” take center stage. Aside from a track or two, including the amazing first single “We’re in this Together,” I felt that the album fell short and was of all things, boring. I wanted to like it a lot and still take it out to listen to it as while it was a commercial disappointment, it has since become a fan favorite with some considering it his best work. I still don’t hear it.

His post “The Fragile” work has been a mix of all of these previous elements but never seeming as concise or fluid as that early work. Both the “Fragile” follow-up “With Teeth” and the sci-fi concept record/game “Year Zero” mixed his love of straight to the point death-pop and airy, atmospheric drones that were prevalent on “The Fragile.” I liked both records, but certainly not as much as I liked his previous work.

Starting with “Year Zero,” Reznor started playing with the internet and technology as a way to release and market his music. Always a vocal critic of record label interference, Reznor official broke from that format this year by releasing a new album this May with less than a week’s notice on his website. Not tricky Radiohead-like payment system a-la his instrumental four disc album released earlier in the year in the same fashion (which I haven’t heard) no Reznor decided his seventh studio effort should be free. As in… “this one is on me.” As he noted in his website post the day the album was “released.” “The Slip” is a loud and quiet, typically brash with equal parts propulsive, ten-song set that find the man at a cross-roads… and yet it’s his most concise record since… well, “Broken.”

It’s a record that certainly grew on me, starting with the killer first single, the death-funk pop track “Discipline,” and then the equally catchy second track “1,000,000.” Upon a couple spins I got to hear just how much he was going back to the “Pretty Hate Machine” style, but coupled with his new love of dark atmospherics. Its length (i.e. short) is a big help, going back to his more pointed short and simple work. The album has subsequently been released on CD, and it’s one of my favorites of the year.


1,000,000 (Live Studio Rehearsal)

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