It would probably be hyperbole to describe Nine Inch Nails as the last real rock band - not least because I wouldn't even agree with such a claim myself - but it's actually quite difficult to remember the others whilst immersed in a Nine Inch Nails album, or at least that's what I've found. I use the term rock band, because that's what either they are or he is now that all industrial music has been officially reclassified as Belgian New Beat. I realise not everyone loves Nine Inch Nails as I do, and they - or possibly he - often seem particularly subject to sneering from those openly declaring love for Coil, Ministry, or one of those other loser acts existing primarily for the purpose of giving angry loners something to declare themselves like really into so as to impress sheeplike Dorito-chugging job-having squaro-cuboid normals with just how deep and meaningful they really are; if you'll pardon my brief descent into ranting.
Nope. For all the funny noises and distortion, Trent Reznor is essentially a populist. He makes records in the hope of people listening to the fucking things and getting something from them, which actually isn't a crime; and he makes bloody good records, and fairly weird records for something having more in common with Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Pixies than fifty minutes of refrigerator hum put through a delay pedal while the bloke who used to play tambourine in Throbbing Gristle reads passages from a library book about Aleister Crowley or the latest issue of The Murder Casebook which builds week by week into a unique and comprehensive encyclopedia of homicidal nutters who aren't actually as interesting as you may initially suspect. Furthermore, The Slip is probably the least impressive of the NIN back catalogue, and yet it does the business regardless. I'm inclined to wonder whether Reznor just shits out top quality material without even thinking about it, or somewhere there's a vast mountain of all the stuff he never finished because it wasn't any good.
The Slip sounds very much like a live recording, meaning in terms of instrumentation and dynamic rather than ambient cheering and the sound of fans calling out for Nice Legs, Shame About the Face; although I may be influenced here by having watched the free DVD on which near identical versions of the same songs are performed live in studio by a full band. So it has a certain immediacy, lacking the prog rock multilayering of previous releases; not that it makes any difference because Reznor's strength is in what he does as much as how he gets there. There's something quite unique about his songs as characterised by bluesy riffs, masterful use of distortion, and a wonderful sense of tension allowing the harsh to coexist with the very fragile. In fact there's something peculiarly sensual, even sexy, about the way he pulls certain tunes together, and sexy in the same way Adam and the Ants used to be before they discovered Four Feather Falls. Discipline in particular feels like a clandestine rummage involving silk underwear of some description, regardless of all the metal, and then that bass comes in like a finger stuck abruptly up one's bumhole, but in a good way.
Just me then.
I mean seriously - Echoplex has the most 1982-sounding drum machine you've ever heard and lalalala Beach Boy harmonies, and it's still a fucking cracker. This man just doesn't give a shit, and that's what sets him apart from all those other clowns stood around pretending to inhale in the Charles Manson t-shirts their mums bought them for Christmas. I get the impression The Slip was more or less pooped out over a bank holiday weekend for the sake of something to do, but it's nevertheless yet another Nails masterpiece.