Opinion – Nine Inch Nails: Whores or Scores?

I’ve always kind of struggled to see what’s so incredible about Nine Inch Nails. I mean, I don’t find Trent Reznor‘s music painful to listen to, but I’ve never really seen what so many people seem to find in it. And then when I do like something he comes out with, like the relatively anthem heavy ‘With Teeth‘ in 2005, it would seem that what I like is his poorest work to date.

But recently I’ve been giving the band a lot more of my time, encouraged by Reznor‘s selfless devotion to pleasing his fans and testing the mettle of the music industry since NIN and Interscope reached the end of their contractual obligations. He did it again this week, releasing another new album, The Slip’, out of nowhere completely free. It’s a brilliantly brave idea and one that at the moment I am struggling to get my head around.

The Slip Album Art

The free download of The Slip comes with a .pdf with album artwork.

Despite Radiohead’s internet release that even today still has people shouting a slew of compliments about them, it really has been Reznor who has taken the fight to the labels and is really pushing the boundaries to see just what happens when you go full out on experiements like these. A little earlier this year Reznor released Ghosts’ as both a free download (for only the first nine tracks) and offered alternate versions which involved payment, but saw you getting in excess of forty tracks of music.

Now, I think it’s bloody brilliant that someone like Reznor is doing something as groundbreaking as this. But I do have just one problem with it all, and that’s the question of whether what he is releasing is actually worth anything. To the die hard NIN fan, anything Reznor touches (including the Trent produced Saul Williams album, Niggy Tardust) is gold in their eyes, but to the average music fan is he proving that such proliference is beneficial or just a matter of throwing out half baked ideas that dilute the overall quality of an artist’s discography.

Nine Inch Nails in the studio recording The Slip

Reznor is a master of the internet, using it to entice and tease his fans. He also understands the usefullness of distribution methods such as .torrents.

It’s really an issue that has me in two minds. Personally I’ve found the new stuff Reznor has put out to be quite enjoyable so far, despite the sparseness of the ‘Ghosts’ soundscapes album. But I’m left wondering if all this is set to be as groundbreaking as Reznor believes it should be, or if people are just going to begin ignoring his output due to it’s consistency and risk of similarity.

I think at the moment, Reznor is just reaching the peak of the idea. The novelty is still there, and people are still intrigued to hear what he has on offer. Whether he is set to prove that this method of releasing albums is a viable way for the future is yet to be seen, but as it stands at the moment I hope that the experiment continues, and Reznore shows the record companies whom he despises so much where to shove it.

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