Release DetailsLABEL Interscope Records
RELEASED ON 5/3/2005
Nine Inch Nails
posted on 5/2005 By:
Regardless of whether or not you like any given Nine Inch Nails album as much as the others, one has to respect the evolution of Trent Reznor’s work. Although NIN’s music is instantly recognizable, each of his four full lengths and one EP have distinct personalities, achieved by rebalancing the combinations and interactions of the core ingredients of pop laden electronica hooks, driving industrial aggression, and depressive introspection. One could make the argument that Reznor’s first effort, 1988's Pretty Hate Machine had the most integrated approach of balancing these attributes, although on later efforts Reznor would grow even more skillful in creating interplay between them. The Broken EP was NIN’s most homogenous effort, containing a few moody instrumentals that served as extended intros to the blistering industrial alternative rock on which the release was focused. Although The Downward Spiral and Broken are the two most similar efforts, the 1994 breakthrough took the raging aggression of Broken and again added balance with the catchy melodies and emotional pain of Pretty Hate Machine. Reznor reshuffled his approach again for the woefully underrated The Fragile, a double album that utilized less of the outward aggression, instead more often focusing inward. What is so powerful about Reznor’s songwriting is the internal/external dichotomy expressed through themes of rage manifested by both personal entropy and raging outward explosions. Most NIN albums have captured both of these aspects, although not always equally. With Teeth is no exception.
When an artist only releases an album every five years or so, it should not come as a surprise that they grow in different directions between efforts. The Fragile revealed a more mature and introspective Reznor, and With Teeth continues that evolution. The overt rage and aggression is seldom found, and he rarely flays himself open emotionally like he did for the numbing “Hurt”. Struggles with anger and internal pain are present but more subtle, as if the psychological fire remains as a hotly smoldering core, opposed to a blaze raging in all directions. The opening track is a reminder that preconceived notions about With Teeth are illadvised. Reznor has always opened albums with absolute screamers, but this time he opted to go with the quiet “All the Love in the World”. The verse takes a minimalist approach, but the majority of the song contains deceptively dense layers. With Teeth is a more subtle effort that boasts perfect production of multiple layers of programming and instrumentation, providing clear evidence that Reznor has grown masterful in the art of presentation and economy of sound. Any of the next three tacks would have made more predictable openers, especially the most aggressive song on the album, the contemptuous “You Know What You Are?”. The bass and drum hook of “The Collector” are an instant hook and another reminder that somber themes often work best when they’re not expressed in equally somber music. Songs like “Getting Smaller” and “Bite the Hand That Feeds” are heavier songs that are sure to be crowd favorites, although they lack the volatility of classics like “March of the Pigs” and “Head Like a Hole”.
Another strength of Reznor’s more recent work is his ability to alternate between electronic and full band sounds, and subsequently capitalize on the interplay between organic and digital aesthetics, as they relate to the emotional intensity of the material. Some of the more effective quiet and electronic focused songs include the emotional closer, “Right Where it Belongs”, a perfect partner to the opening track, and “Beside You in Time”, a song that uses an interesting technique to build. The focus of the track is a sustained note that has been chopped in half and then looped. Muted percussion and guitar work support the song, which combine to form a simmering building toward the . Eventual eruption into a powerful crescendo of louder and busier arrangements. “Only” has an overly bright synth line that is reminiscent of NIN’s earliest work, although it doesn’t replicate the quality of that period.
Head Foo Dave Grohl plays drums on several tracks, and some of the songs that are more band oriented are “Getting Smaller”, “The Collector”, the title track, and “The Line Begins to Blur”. The latter song has a unique live feel, due to the distant raspy shouted vocals and rumbling, buzzing bass. With Teeth may not initially stand up to the near perfect back catalog of NIN, but this album feels like a grower that takes longer to reveal its more subtle allures. Even so, Reznor’s classy work as a songwriter and sound constructor are nearly always an improvement over the vast sea of mediocrity.
Register to post comments.