A Letter to Mr. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails

Mr. Reznor,

Last night I downloaded Nine Inch Nails’ new album The Slip, for free, from NIN.com. I was excited, especially considering it was the second NIN release in the past two months, but I was also cautious. A new Nine Inch Nails album always fills me with some anticipation, yet also some trepidation, and it was so wonderful for you to just be giving it away! My caution was completely worthwhile in regards to this album, and I am wholly disappointed.

I listened to the whole album today, in the course of driving to and from work. First off, the album seems very short. Clocking in at just over 43 minutes, I suppose it is average in length, but when you consider that of that 43 minutes 13.5 are instrumentals, of which 7.5 is the song “Corona Radiata”, which consists of over 5 minutes of droning. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with instrumentals, and have often enjoyed the instrumentals you’ve released. However, Ghosts I-IV, just released in March, was a collection of only instrumentals. Any of the instrumentals on The Slip could have easily been found there.

Length, however, is not my greatest disappointment. Save one track, “Lights in the Sky”, every other song on The Slip sounds like a rehash of something from With Teeth or Year Zero. Take “1,000,000” for instance. It is, in equal measure, a combination of “The Hand That Feeds” and “Survivalism”. And worse, the non-instrumental tracks on The Slip are nowhere near as catchy as any of the prior releases! The instrumental tracks, especially “The Four of Us Are Dying”, are interesting, but like every track on Ghosts I-IV, end just as they start to live up to their potential (except the aforementioned “Corona Radiata”, which, “drones” on for far too long).

As I mentioned, Lights in the Sky, may be the album’s one saving grace, and is a standout song, if for any reason simply because it is not like anything else released by Nine Inch Nails in the past 20 years. It’s a stark piano ballad whose closest NIN comparisons could be the work on Still or the song “Something I Can Never Have”, released (yes over 20 years ago) on Pretty Hate Machine. It is a stark contrast to the heavily distorted fuzzed out guitar over frenetic skippy beats and pained vocals that have become to define the modern Nine Inch Nails. Where did the innovation go? Where are the new ideas? Year Zero intrigued me and I liked it quite a bit. It extended the sound of With Teeth and played with some new sounds, as well as dealing with grown up angst in its social commentary. The Slip, however, is nothing but a slip into more of the same.

Thanks for giving it to me for free, because I would have been upset if I had paid for it. And while I also appreciate the free registration to NIN.com which provides access to the pre-sale for your summer tour, I will be respectfully declining purchasing tickets. I’m afraid I would be bored.

For some reason faithful,

Joshua J. Carlson

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