Wednesday, 25 March 2009

[162] NIN|JA Free Tour EP (Review)

[Time for some awkwardly loquacious musical nonsense]

Two musical products that have fallen by the wayside in the recent recording climate are the tour and collaborative EPs. Trent Reznor, the former king of fashionable fetishism and fatalism, now a reborn figurehead for sticking two fingers up at the narrow-minded suits behind the major labels, who released the last Nine Inch Nails full-length for free on the internet, is quietly bringing this tradition back with the NIN|JA tour EP, currently free to download on the tour's official website.

The NIN|JA tour, which begins in May and features dates around the USA, is co-headlined by Nine Inch Nails and the recently-re-reformed Jane's Addiction. For his last tour, Reznor compiled and released the compilation Lights In The Sky EP, which contained primers and choice cuts by the contemporary and relatively unknown bands opening for Nine Inch Nails, such as A Place To Bury Strangers, Deerhunter and Crystal Castles. This NIN|JA EP is a slightly different, and more complicated, beast. It features a mixture of new and old tracks, obvious off-cuts and demo-level playthroughs. In other words, something that is entirely suited for a diversionary, promotional slice of downloadable distraction.

The EP cycles twice through a song each from the co-headliners and Street Sweeper, the humble opening band which, upon closer inspection, turns out to be a collaboration between Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello and Californian rapper Boots Riley.

The sampler opens with a track from Jane's Addiction, titled 'Chip Away'; produced by Reznor, it is two and a half minutes of rhythm, sound and echo. It is propelled forward by a rumbling, primal drum pattern as Perry Farrell shouts out into the reverb-drenched aether. It is riff- and chorus-less, and instead moves in an abstract, impressionistic way. In comparison, their second track, 'Whores', is straightforward, but it is given an overtly sexual, alluring grind by Eric Avery's fuzz-toned bassline and the metallic power chords of Dave Navarro's guitar.

These are not exactly timeless classics, but they sound committed and full of vigour, and sweeten the potential of seeing the once-revered band in a reunified live setting.

Street Sweeper, in stark contrast, contribute two tracks that are anemic and limp. 'Clap For The Killers' is damning evidence for the theory that Tom Morello used all of his best riff ideas on Rage Against The Machine's self-titled debut album, and had run out of interesting guitar effects by Battle Of LA, their third album. This track, and second contribution 'The Oath', are woefully self-plagiarising, lazy and are both slightly too slow to have any real punch.

Boots Riley is a mumbly sort of rapper, and doesn't bring enough charisma or showmanship to make this song work - and his lyrics are all sloganeering and no substance. The chorus for 'The Oath', is a laconic repetition of 'alright motherfuckers, fight motherfuckers!'. The most surprising, and enticing element in either of their songs comes like a welcome kick in the teeth (if there can be such a thing), when 'Clap For The Killers' segues into a clean, melodic guitar solo for its outro. Sadly, it is barely 50 seconds long, and comes far too late to save the song.

Caught in the middle, Nine Inch Nails offer two out-takes from the With Teeth album from 2005. Both 'Non-Entity' and 'Not So Pretty Now' became live staples, and it is interesting to hear their studio counterparts. They are both second-tier tracks at best, and are tied to the halfway house style of their parent album - With Teeth was stripped back and slick, but distant and clinical. They are by no means bad songs - they are both capable anthemic workouts, one upbeat and energetic, the other atmospheric and crawling - but neither stand up to the best of NIN/Reznor's work in his highly-creative, highly-committed period of the last 3 years.

The NIN|JA EP might not provide classic songs or important statements, but it is fascinating and free. To download the album, go here, where you can also stream the tracks and other select cuts from the artists. Multitrack files for all of the songs are also available for remixing purposes over at


Joey said...


Mike Leader said...

Nice one! Hope it rocks.