- The Slip (album)
The Slip Studio album by Nine Inch Nails Released July 22, 2008 Recorded April 2008 Genre Industrial rock Length 43:45 Label The Null Corporation Producer Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Alan Moulder Nine Inch Nails chronology Ghosts I–IV
Singles from The Slip
Released: April 22, 2008
The Slip is the seventh studio album by American industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails, released on July 22, 2008. It was the fourth consecutive Nine Inch Nails release to be produced by frontman Trent Reznor with collaborators Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder. The album was released for free under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license, with the message from Reznor, "this one's on me." The Slip was initially released digitally via the Nine Inch Nails official website without any prior advertisement or promotion. A limited-edition, physical version followed two months later, though this iteration of the album was not free.
The Slip was originally intended to be an EP, but eventually grew to be a full-length album. It was recorded, performed, and released in three weeks; Reznor released the album's only single, "Discipline", to radio stations himself, less than 24 hours after it was mastered by Moulder. Critical reception of the album has been generally favorable, and its unorthodox method of release attracted significant media attention. The album peaked at number 13 on the Billboard 200.
Background and recording
Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor announced in 2007 that the band had completed its contractual obligations to its record label, Interscope Records, and would no longer be working with the company. Reznor also revealed that Nine Inch Nails would likely distribute any future material independently. Following the announcement, Nine Inch Nails released the 36-track instrumental album Ghosts I–IV in March 2008 on Reznor's independent label The Null Corporation.
Reznor returned to writing soon after the release of Ghosts, and after a month of work The Slip was performed and recorded in three weeks of studio time at Trent Reznor's in-home studio. The album was engineered by Atticus Ross and mixed by Alan Moulder, both of whom co-produced it with Reznor. Originally intended as an EP, in Reznor's own words "it just kept growing legs until it [became] what it is". Some instrumental performances were contributed by live-band members Josh Freese, Robin Finck, and Alessandro Cortini, though they did not participate in the songwriting process; their contributions were limited to small parts rather than complete song recordings. During recording sessions, Reznor sent the album's first and only single, "Discipline", to radio stations before the remainder of the album was completed, and less than 24 hours after the track had been mastered. According to Reznor, the track listing and lyrics were finished on a Wednesday, the final mix and album sequencing on Thursday, the mastering on Friday, artwork on Saturday, and the album was released on Sunday, May 5. Reznor reflected on the quick turnaround by saying "that was fun [...] you never could have done that before", referring to the slow and bureaucratic pace of record production, promotion, and release he experienced with major record labels.
Music and lyrics
Many critics noted how tracks on The Slip echoed musical stylings from the band's past, and that the record contained musical allusions to older Nine Inch Nails records. Anastasia Pantsios of the Cleveland Free Times said that "The Slip more or less sums up the terrain Reznor's covered in his nearly two-decade career", and went on to compare the album sound with the "edgy but irresistible beats" of Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral, and "the elusive atmospherics" of The Fragile. Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote that "the music revives Nine Inch Nails’ past, from stomping hard rock to dance-club beats to piano ballad to inexorably building instrumentals." The album's final track, "Demon Seed", directly incorporates instrumental elements from the final track of the band's previous all-instrumental album Ghosts I–IV.
Ed Thompson of IGN commented that the tracks "Discipline" and "Echoplex" channeled "bits and pieces of Depeche Mode, Bauhaus, and even some Siouxsie and the Banshees". Richard Cromelin of the Los Angeles Times called The Slip "murkier and less catchy than the last couple of regular NIN albums", and added that "Reznor blends the jarring sounds of the industrial rock genre [...] with a terse, punk-like attack, bringing an insistent, sometimes claustrophobic feel to his scenarios of alienation".
Lyrically, Eric Harvey of Pitchfork Media compared "Discipline" to one of Nine Inch Nails's first singles, "Head Like a Hole", saying "['Discipline'] comes from a long-established and now label-free artist trying to reflexively reassert his position in the pop landscape, on his own terms. [...] 'Discipline' evinces Reznor's desire for some sort of framework [...] In relative terms, 'I need your discipline/ I need your help' is sure a long way from the nearly 20-year-old 'Head Like a Hole' refrain 'I'd rather die/ Than give you control'." Tom Breihan of The Village Voice reached a similar interpretation of the album's lyrical content, writing "The Slip seems to deal with Reznor's break from the corporate machine, or at least from the numbing conformity-minded forces it represents."
In commenting on the album, Reznor has said that it derived from "a weird sense of being outside [himself] in isolation and watching [himself] getting older." He also described it as "a quickly assembled album", and as "more of a sketch than a painting." Reznor compared the quick assembly of The Slip to the much longer process of creating his 1999 double album The Fragile, saying that the creation of The Slip relied more on "reflexes" and that his next project would be given more "editorial time".
Rob Sheridan, in collaboration with Reznor, was the album's art director, as he had been for the previous three Nine Inch Nails studio albums, Ghosts I–IV (2008), Year Zero (2007), and With Teeth (2005). The downloadable version of The Slip comes with a PDF containing liner notes and album art. Each track from the album is accompanied by its own graphic image, each of which consists chiefly of geometric patterns against a grey background.
Trent Reznor posted on the official Nine Inch Nails website on April 21 a message saying "2 weeks!" Reznor employed a similar tactic to tease the release of the band's previous album (Ghosts I–IV) earlier the same year. The following day, Reznor released the single by email "Discipline" to radio stations and as a free download on the official Nine Inch Nails site. The song failed to conquer the pole position as expected, and charted below the Top 5. Another song, "Echoplex", was released as a free download from iLike later. The ID3 tags of these MP3 files also pointed to the date May 5, just as Reznor's post had. On May 5, a free direct download link to the album in MP3 format was posted on the official Nine Inch Nails website, with a message from Reznor that said: "Thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years - this one's on me." The digital download is available in a variety of DRM-free audio formats. The lyrics for each track are embedded using ID3 tags, for viewing in supported media players.
Like the previous Nine Inch Nails studio album Ghosts I–IV, The Slip was released under a Creative Commons attribution-noncommercial share-alike license, in effect allowing anyone to use or rework the material for any non-profit purpose, as long as credit is provided and the resulting work is released under a similar license. The website further expands this by saying "we encourage you to remix it, share it with your friends, post it on your blog, play it on your podcast, give it to strangers, etc." As with Ghosts I–IV and Year Zero, multi-track audio source files of the album were also made available at the official Nine Inch Nails remix site. Reznor also plans on giving away the online software and digital infrastructure through which both The Slip and Ghosts were released.
The Slip was released on CD in the United States and Canada on July 22; unlike the digital release, however, the physical version of the album was not free. The physical package was released as a six-panel digipack which contained the album itself, a 24-page booklet, a sticker pack, and a DVD with live rehearsals of "1,000,000", "Letting You", "Discipline", "Echoplex", and "Head Down". Three of these videos were featured on Pitchfork Media prior to the CD/DVD release. The physical release of the album was limited to 250,000 numbered units worldwide. A 180-gram gatefold vinyl was released in the US and Canada on August 12, and in the United Kingdom August 18.
Sales and public reception
A month and a half after its online release, The Slip had been downloaded 1.4 million times from the official Nine Inch Nails website. By the time the physical version was released two months later, that number had grown beyond 2 million. The physical release of the album has sold more than 98,000 copies, peaked at number 13 on the Billboard 200 and the Top Internet Albums charts, and missed the Top 10, based on weekly retail sales. The album also charted internationally, including number 12 on the Canadian Albums Chart, number 2 on the Australian Albums Chart, and number 25 on the UK Albums Chart, all where the album didn't top any charts. The album's only single, "Discipline" (which was unable to enter the Top 5) reached number 6 and number 24 on Billboard's Alternative Songs and Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks charts, respectively, based on weekly radio airplay and failed to top any charts.
Professional ratings Aggregate scores Source Rating Metacritic 78% Review scores Source Rating Allmusic  IGN (8.8/10) NME (7/10) Pitchfork Media (7.5/10) PopMatters (7/10) Rolling Stone  Slant  Spin  The Sun (4.5/5)
Critical response to The Slip has been generally favorable, with an average rating of 78% based on eleven reviews on Metacritic. IGN gave the album an 8.8 out of 10, stating "Simply put, The Slip is an amazing record." The Toronto Star said "[The Slip] is hardly a throwaway, this seems a sincere gift to fans." Eric Harvey of Pitchfork Media gave the album a 7.5 out of 10 and wrote "Reznor's unique capacity to commingle raging industrial bangers with ballads and ambient instrumental passages appears in its best form since The Downward Spiral, and here gains much of the focus and restraint that many remember used to be his calling card." Daphne Carr of LA Weekly said "Musically, it’s his most adventurous work since The Fragile, and his business model is inspired — if unsustainable." Slant Magazine's review was not as positive, however: Sal Cinquemani summarized in his review that "individual songs on The Slip aren't particularly dynamic", and described the track "Lights in the Sky" as "a tuneless, minimalist piano dirge". Mikael Wood of Spin complained that "a few tracks, such as 'The Four of Us Are Dying,' go on for far too long", but then said "Reznor recovers with a barn burner like 'Demon Seed'".
As with Ghosts I–IV, The Slip's unorthodox distribution methods also garnered the attention of various news agencies. An ABC News op ed questioned if consumers would "ever pay for an album again" stating "with NIN now in the game, its [sic] hard to argue that this is anything but a harbinger of the future." Commenting on the distribution of the album, Dave LaGesse of U.S. News & World Report said "The move seems an even purer play than what Radiohead did with its most recent album, In Rainbows." Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone magazine called giving away The Slip for free Reznor's "most radical stunt yet", and added that "[it's] an impressively democratic, fourth-wall-shattering gesture coming from one of music's biggest control-freak auteurs." Eric Harvey of Pitchfork Media compared the release strategy of The Slip favorably to that of Ghosts I–IV and Year Zero, writing that "[u]nlike its most immediate predecessors, The Slip comes packaged with a crucial difference: the music itself is more satisfying than the sui generis marketing scheme."
Rolling Stone named The Slip in their "Best of 2008" list, ranking the album at number 37, and named Reznor number 46 in its "100 People Who Are Changing America" list, concluding that he has "been more creative than anyone in embracing the post-CD era". Following the release of the online-releases of The Slip and Ghosts I–IV, Reznor was awarded the "Webby Artist of the Year Award" at the annual Webby Awards in 2009.
All songs written and composed by Trent Reznor.
No. Title Length 1. "999,999" 1:25 2. "1,000,000" 3:56 3. "Letting You" 3:49 4. "Discipline" 4:19 5. "Echoplex" 4:45 6. "Head Down" 4:55 7. "Lights in the Sky" 3:29 8. "Corona Radiata" 7:33 9. "The Four of Us Are Dying" 4:37 10. "Demon Seed" 4:59
Limited Edition Bonus DVD
Live From Rehearsals June 2008:
- "1,000,000" (Live)
- "Letting You" (Live)
- "Discipline" (Live)
- "Echoplex" (Live)
- "Head Down" (Live)
Chart (2008) Peak
The Slip Billboard 200 13 Top Internet Albums 13 Australian Albums Chart 22 Canadian Albums Chart 12 Finnish Albums Chart 24 German Albums Chart 33 Norwegian Albums Chart 38 Swiss Albums Chart 35 UK Albums Chart 25 "Discipline" Alternative Songs 6 Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 24 iLike Libraries: Most Added 9
- Written by Trent Reznor
- Performed by Trent Reznor with Josh Freese, Robin Finck, and Alessandro Cortini
- Produced by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Alan Moulder
- Mixed by Alan Moulder
- Programmed by Atticus Ross
- Engineered by Michael Tuller, Atticus Ross, and Alan Moulder
- Mastered by Brian Gardner at Bernie Grundman Mastering, Hollywood, California
- Room tuning: Steve "Coco" Brandon
- Art Direction: Rob Sheridan and Trent Reznor
Video content (CD/DVD version):
- Nine Inch Nails live: Alessandro Cortini, Robin Finck, Josh Freese, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Trent Reznor
- Produced by Michael Angelos
- Directed and edited by Rob Sheridan
- "Letting You", "Head Down", and "Discipline" mixed by Blumpy
- "1,000,000" and "Echoplex" mixed by Ken Andrews at Red Swan Studios
- Production Manager: Mark Demarais
- Director of Photography: Simon Thirlaway
- Camera Operators: Simon Thirlaway, Rob Sheridan, Hilton Goring, Dan Bombell, Ethan McDonald
- Mastered by Tom Baker at Precision Mastering, Hollywood, CA
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