You've heard the best things in life are free.
For Nine Inch Nails' one-man bandleader Trent Reznor, that which is free may not be his best, but it is certainly more listenable than a four-disc release of moody, electronic beats, which he unleashed upon the masses earlier this year.
This week marked yet another step in the trend of musicians releasing material on their own terms, minus the overhead, interference and overall control that comes with a major record label deal. The artists win, because they can release whatever they want, whenever they want. The listeners win, because we can either name our price for a download of the album as Radiohead did last fall with In Rainbows, or, in the case of Reznor's latest, The Slip, it's given away for free to all who want it. We also win because it's legal.
The fact that it's pretty darn good music is icing on the cake. As I said before, it may not be NIN's best, as that honor would probably have to go to his 1989 (yes, this album is already nearing its second complete decade in existence) debut album, Pretty Hate Machine. It doesn't have the catchy, crossover appeal of his 1994 industrial opus The Downward Spiral, which contained the song with one of the more memorable choruses in history, "Closer." But The Slip does have plenty of aggressive, caustic tunes we've come to expect from Reznor (in addition to a couple wandering instrumental interludes, of course).
Though I have to admit I've been less than thorough with many of his most recent releases, this one seems to be a much more focused attempt. If you don't want to actually fork over -- well, nothing -- to download The Spill from www.nin.com, you can sample a handful of Trent's new offerings from his MySpace page.
As he says on the band's Web site, the free download of The Slip is for the fans.
"Thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years - this one's on me," he says.
I don't know that my support of the Nails has been all that continuous or loyal over the past 18-plus years, but at this price, I'm buying.