Never kick a gift horse in the mouth, or so received wisdom goes. Trent 'NIN' Reznor dropped The Slip on his cyber audience this May, only months after masterminding the Radiohead style release of purely instrumental album 'Ghosts I-IV', and did so with the pithy 'this one's on me'.
Something of an overall retrospective, The Slip pulls out tricks Trent's been using from Pretty Hate machine, through the Quake soundtrack, all the way to Ghosts IV-V. Breathless vocals trade with punctuating riffs, techno-beats give way to double-kick bass, and vice-versa. Where the album gets interesting - and where it takes off from the With Teeth and Year Zero era - is the en vogue prog-rock musings that make up the second half.
There's no concept here - as there was with future-horror 'Year Zero'. That's not a bad thing. The album is a palette of atmosphere bubbles, something that speaks to Reznor's strengths in its ability to lurch from the engaging - 'Discipline' - to the contemplative. The album's post-rock experimental second half is skin-crawlingly disconcerting - maybe it's because it sounds like the Twin Peaks soundtrack - as you're plunged from thrash through approachable techno to something that sounds a bit like Radiohead on a really bad acid trip. Dotted with strange samples swelling out of a cold, Space 20001-esque space ship lift off, and closing with inhuman screeches, The Slip is every bit as pessimistic a nod to the future as Year Zero - or anything by Godspeed You - just without the agenda.
Sounding like the moment at the end of a horror movie when the survivors peel what's left of the zombie invaders off and lurch out into the sun, The Slip is unfriendly, schizophrenic and maudlin but, like pessimism in general, it's contagious. Reznor’s magnanimously given fans and critics alike the slip - and it was worth the wait.