Nine Inch Nails

By now, the acolytes, fetishists and mildly interested already possess their copies of Trent Reznor's latest freebie—as in, "this one's on me," he cagily notes on the band's Web site, from which you could pluck the 10 tracks to share and remix as you please. So, sure, as far as gratis albums go, it's aces—a guilt-free good time, though, once you factor in the dance-floor angst, I dunno how good a time it's intended to be.

On second thought: "Echoplex"—the second, ah, single unleashed before the full-length made its proper bow—might be the catchiest thing Reznor's ever done. Damned thing's almost peppy, if you don't pay attention to the dystopian lyrics—and, come on, who does at this late date?

Because, see, Reznor's as much put-on as prophet nowadays—the Debbie Downer of punk-pop-a-disco dishing out woe-is-me-isms when you can tell, well, he really just wants to dance. Which is why the freebie's accessible to one and all: "Discipline" is a fuzzbox jam in which he wonders if he's "tough enough" (what is this—a Fab T-Birds jam?); "1,000,000" provides a few thousand taps o' the toe; and "Head Down" gets him airplay on modern-rock radio circa '94, bless his retro soul. As for the prolonged instrumentals, which sound like leftovers from his other freebie, I guess David Fincher always needs the soundtrack filler; the rest, natch, is killer.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky